field hockey Argentina London 2012 Olympics
Luciana Aymar. (chelmsfordblue/Flickr)

Previewing the Sports You Know Nothing About: Field Hockey

It's hockey on a field—except, different

field hockey Argentina London 2012 Olympics
Ryan O'Hanlon

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.


The name here is a pretty good, concise description of the sport. If not: it’s 11v11. The object of the sport is to hit a plastic ball into a goal using a stick. Except, you can only use one side of the stick, you can only score inside a marked off scoring zone shaped like a “D,” and you can’t raise your stick above waist level. So, basically, everyone might as well be holding a giant spoon. The goalies wear full-body protection, while the field players only wear shin-pads. The 12 teams are divided into two groups. The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals, and then it’s single-elimination. The medal dates are August 10 (women) and 11 (men).

Men’s field hockey has been in the Olympics since 1908, while women’s field hockey wasn’t an Olympic sport until 1980. The Dutch have the most medals (16) of all time, including four golds. India hasn’t won a medal since 1980, but their eight golds are the most in history. Australia is tied with the Netherlands in golds and with India in total medals (11). The Australian women have won three of the eight golds ever awarded.

On the men’s side, Australia is the defending World Cup champion, and they’re ranked first in the world. The 33-year-old Australian Jamie Dwyer has won World Player of the Year in five of the last eight years and each of the last three. Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Spain should all challenge for medals, too. For the women, Argentina is the world number two and defending World Cup champ. They’re led by 34-year-old Luciana Aymar, the seven-time-defending World Player of the Year. She’s basically the [insert stupid cross-sport, cross-sex comparison] of field hockey. Yet, she’s never won a gold medal. The Dutch women currently hold the top spot in the world rankings, while Great Britain and Germany should also be in medal contention.

Chance? MORE LIKE CHUMPS. Well, no. Sorry about that. But seriously, the U.S. men have as good of a chance at winning a medal as a cardboard box full of hamsters since they dropped out of Olympic qualifying rounds and won’t be competing. The U.S. women won the 2011 Pan-Am games by upsetting Argentina in the final, and they’re considerably better than the men, which makes sense because women’s field hockey is actually an American collegiate sport. They’re ranked 10th in the world and have an outside-outside (I get paid extra every time I use that word) shot at a medal.

‘Cosmic’ Luciana Aymar key to Argentina

Lead Photo: chelmsfordblue/Flickr