Argentinean hockey women seek gold

BUENOS AIRES (AP) – The Lionesses are hunting for gold. Olympic gold. Argentina’s national women’s field hockey team is the defending world champion, but the Olympic gold medal has proved elusive. «We’ve got the intensity, the passion for our sport,» player Marina Di Giacomo said. «This is the year we hope to step out front of the rest.» The Lionesses, or Las Leonas, took the first step toward Athens when they won their fifth straight Pan American Games gold medal last August in the Dominican Republic. In Sydney four years ago, Argentina lost to Australia in the gold-medal match and had to settle for silver. And in 2003, Las Leonas were disappointed again when Australia took the Champions Trophy over top-ranked Argentina. «Last year we were poisoned by our own success,» coach Sergio Vigil said. But as the Olympics approach, Vigil is taking nothing for granted. Running frantically and barking orders, Vigil constantly drills his players on the finer points of teamwork and stick handling. «We need to improve even further every technical aspect of the game,» Vigil said. «We must give it added value so that we build on the fundamentals and make our play even more dynamic.» «The most important match is the match you are playing,» the coach is fond of saying. «We will take it step by step. Yes, every game is important and so is every moment in the match.» Women’s field hockey in Argentina has become a huge sport, nearly as big for the girls as soccer is for the boys. And that fanaticism is what makes girls as young as 5 or 6 years old start playing the game – far earlier than most other countries.