Coetzee sets sights on London Olympics

New Delhi: A veteran of two summer Olympics and a world record holder for maximum number of goals in women`s hockey, South African striker Pietie Coetzee has set her eyes on this year`s London Games, her one last shot at the quadrennial event.

At the age of 33, Coetzee is undoubtedly the most celebrated player of women`s hockey, having scored 231 goals in 235 appearances-- highest in the history of the women`s game.

But the gifted sharpshooter, who represented South Africa in 2000 and 2004 Olympics, is in no mood to sit on the laurels and was completely focused on the job at hand-- to win the upcoming qualifiers-- which will enable her to become a three-time Olympian.

"The world record is something I never thought of when I started to play hockey. I am proud of the achievement but I don`t like to spend a lot of time thinking about it," said Coetzee, who will be spearheading South Africa`s forward line in the Olympic Qualification tournament to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here from February 18-26.

"What is important for me is to win matches for my country. I would imagine this as my last Olympics and we all are focused to get to London," she insisted.

The world record is of immense significance for Coetzee, who quit the game in 2006 only to make a comeback four years later.

"I lost motivation and energy and was tired, so I had quit. Over and above that hockey is not a professional sport in South Africa, so I had to think about my future," said the forward from Bloemfontein, who completed her medicine studies during the break.

"My return was unplanned. The coach called me in 2010 and asked me whether I would like to comeback and I straightway returned to hockey. But I must admit it was physically tough," said Coetzee, who first represented her country at the tender age of 16.

Talking about the upcoming challenge at hand, Coetzee said hosts India are the team to watch out for even though they are the highest ranked side in the six-team competition.

"India is a very good team. They will be a difficult opposition. They have some tremendous players in Rani Rampal and the two goalkeepers (Savita and Yogita)," she said.

"But we are not new to these conditions as we have played in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. We know what to expect from the conditions and the turf. The weather is also very pleasant. We thought it would be much hotter, but we are surprised to see such a mild weather."

South Africa captain Marsha Marescia, the most-capped player for her country, said they have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and their previous knowledge about the ground will hold them in good stead in the tournament.

"We have got a lot of experience at the moment. There are also some bright young but matured players. So we have got a bit of everything," she said.

"To add to it, we have played on this pitch before and know what to expect. But the first game is going to be important in terms of settling down. The first game in any tournament is an opportunity for trial and error," she added.


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