SV's Jess Armstrong recently travelled to Barcelona with the Wales Grand Master’s hockey team. They were there to take part in the 2018 World Cup.
Jess was the team's primary therapist, and provided treatment to the athletes, aged 65+, over the course of the tournament, as well as pitch-side care during matches.
Here's what Jess had to say about the trip:
On 20 June, I travelled to Barcelona with the Wales Great Grand Master (65+) and Senior Grand Master (70+) hockey teams for their 2018 World Cup tournament and what an experience I had!
I was the primary therapist for both the Wales 65+ and 70+ teams.
My job tasked me with the role of keeping all the athletes on the field and ready to play.
Both teams had six games over the ten days, often playing 2-3 games back-to-back days.
The temperature was 25+ degrees every day and the only rain we got was during our tournament dinner at the Barcelona Polo Club. It was extreme conditions for the athletes.
The 70s had a fabulous tournament finishing 5th overall in the world. They faced England, Netherlands, Belgium and Japan in the round robin, finishing 3rd in their pool. In the quarterfinals they faced Scotland and a win put them up for the 5th place match against South Africa. After a hot tough match, they came out on top taking 5th place of 11 teams.
The 65s had a tough round robin, but managed to finish 2nd in their pool. This moved them into the competition for the top 8 teams in the world. In the quarterfinals they faced the Netherlands who were one of the tournament favourites. The team pulled together and after a grueling 70 minutes came out on top with a 3-1 win!
Next up they faced England in the semi finals. They knew they had their work cut out for them, but the boys wanted the chance at the gold medal and were ready to battle.
I’d also made a deal with the team that if they won the gold medal I would invite them all to my wedding back in Canada, a little extra incentive for them!
England scored an early goal, but Wales managed to hold them off for the rest of the first half. With an encouraging and calming talk from Coach Andy Mitchell at half time, the team was refocused and ready to go. With some newfound energy, the boys scored in the 3rd quarter evening out the playing field! As the game continued, the heat from the day took its toll and fatigue set in and on a break England was able to score again. The loss put Wales into the bronze medal match against the home team Spain.
The final day of the tournament had come. They’d been through five games in the blistering heat with little time to recover and had one final chance for a medal. With no injuries to report and a focused plan from the coach, the team was ready.
They took on Spain at their home field. The first half was scoreless, but full of chances for both teams. A few minutes into the second half, Wales was given a short corner and solidified a 1-0 lead! The rest of the quarter was nail biting, but they managed to stay ahead 1-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Well into the final quarter Spain fouled Wales and Wales ended up with a penalty shot. With everyone holding their breath, player Ian Johnson took the shot and SCORED! Holding off Spain for the last few minutes, Wales came out as the bronze medal winners of the 2018 Grand Masters Hockey World Cup!
Coming away from this tournament, I have new memories that will last me a lifetime. These players have taught me that age is only a number. They are the living evidence that continuing to move and pursuing your passion can allow you to stay as active as you like.
I watched a 77-year-old man play in full hockey goalie gear for six games in temperatures most people don’t want to move in.
I watched 65-75 year olds sprint up and down a hockey pitch for 70 minutes a game.
The coach would pull them off for a rest and they were itching to go back on. It was inspiring!
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel with these teams.
Congratulations Team Wales on a successful 2018 Grand Masters Hockey World Cup!