Hockey: Hoskin flies in for Garcia

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reports from Barcelona

Howard Hoskin, the Reading forward, yesterday flew out to join the Great Britain squad here after the experienced Russell Garcia withdrew on the eve of their opening Olympic qualifying match against India.

Garcia, who won a gold medal as part of Britain's triumphant 1988 Olympic side, has contracted a severe bout of gastroenteritis.

The loss of their most experienced player is a severe blow to Britain, who set out on the long road to Atlanta with seven matches in 10 days at the qualifying tournament. They face a tough start when, in their opening match, they meet an Indian team who have just beaten the world champions, Pakistan.

"India won't be easy, but we know we can beat them," the British manager, David Whittle, said. Even defeat by India would not be a disaster, as Britain are firm favourites to qualify along with the Indians and Holland, who are officially ranked second in the world.

Five of the eight competing nations will earn tickets to Atlanta to join the seven countries who have qualified already. Also competing in Barcelona are Spain, Belgium, Malaysia, Belarus and Canada - all ranked below Britain.

ENGLAND SQUAD (Olympic qualifying tournament, Barcelona): S Mason (Reading), D Luckes (East Grinstead) J Wyatt (Reading), J Halls (Old Loughtonians), Soma Singh (Southgate), G Fordham (Hounslow), K Takher (Cannock), S Hazlitt (Hounslow), C Mayer (Cannock), R Thompson (Hounslow) J Laslett (Teddington, capt), N Thompson (Old Loughtonians), D Hall (Guildford), J Shaw (Southgate), C Giles (Havant), H Hoskin (Reading).

SCHEDULE: Today: England v India. 21 Jan: England v Canada. 22 Jan: England v Belarus. 24 Jan: England v Spain. 25 Jan: England v Netherlands. 27 Jan: England v Malaysia. 28 Jan: England v Belgium.