China Head coach Yang Wang has every reason to believe that this rapidly improving team can outperform expectations in Japan. There is certainly plenty of quality players to call upon, including Cui Qiuxia, a hugely experienced defender with a reputation for being utterly fearless. The Olympic training squad also contained two world class shot stoppers in Li Dongxiao (nominee: FIH Goalkeeper of the Year 2015) and Ye Jiao (nominee: FIH Goalkeeper of the Year 2018), while outfield player Zhong Jiaqi was nominated for the 2019 FIH Rising Star of the Year award.
Ahead of their quest for a medal in Tokyo, we caught up with China co-captains Cui Qiuxia and Peng Yang to get their thoughts and feelings about the upcoming Olympiad.
Cui Qiuxia and Peng Yang, thank you so much for talking to us. It may have been delayed by a year, but the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is getting close. Despite the delay and all the challenges surrounding the covid situation, you and your team must be very excited. Can you tell us how you are feeling about it all?
Cui Qiuxia: “In the past year, with the covid-19 pandemic, every day has been difficult. It has not been an easy thing for all of us to stay healthy. As we enter the Tokyo Olympics, I’m glad we did it. The Tokyo Olympics is coming soon, and me and my team are doing safe shielding. We are very excited. We are looking forward to having an excellent performance in Tokyo.
Peng Yang: “We are all pretty excited and looking forward to playing in Tokyo.”
What does representing your country at an Olympic Games mean to you?
Cui Qiuxia: “To me, it is a great honour to represent my country in the Olympics. It is the most wonderful place to realise a dream.”
Peng Yang: “For me, it will be one of the most incredible moments of my life.”
As always at an Olympics, every match is difficult! The focus will be on getting out of a pool containing Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Japan to reach the quarter-finals. What are your thoughts about the pool phase?
Cui Qiuxia: “Every opponent in the Olympics is strong. We all face tough opponents, and every match will be challenging. We need to focus on our tactics and play with more efficiency to earn more chances. I cannot wait to start the Games. I think we are very well prepared now.”
Peng Yang: “I’m looking forward to playing every game in our pool, because all the matches are interesting for us.”
Finally, what would it mean to you to win an Olympic medal?
Cui Qiuxia: “If we win a medal at the Olympics, I think it would be amazing. I really want to know what it feels like to win a medal in field hockey. [if we win a medal] we will have more support and have positive plans here in China. It will hugely help the sporting level [of hockey] in China.”
Peng Yang: “It would mean a big step forward for Chinese hockey.”
The hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place from Saturday 24 July to Friday 6 August 2021. Both the men’s and women’s competitions feature 12 teams, split into two pools of six ahead of quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches. For more information about the hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, visit https://tokyo2020.org/en/sports/hockey/.