Looking for thoroughbreds among colts

Junior Hockey World CupIndian coach Gregg Clark and Baljeet Singh with the team (IE Photo Amit Mehra)

One look at the teams' entourage and it becomes evident just how important the Junior World Cup, beginning December 6, is for the participating nations.

Markus Wiese, the German coach who has won three straight Olympic gold medals, is arriving on Thursday to join the reigning champions' support staff. Floris Evers, who led the Netherlands to the silver medal the London Games, is the Oranje colts' team manager. Former Pakistan World Cup winner and now the senior team's coach Tahir Zaman, too, is in Delhi to oversee the team's campaign.

India's think tank was already big enough, with coaches Gregg Clark, Baljeet Singh Saini and David Staniforth working full time with the team. Now they have senior dragflicker Sandeep Singh helping them out with penalty corners. Besides, high-performance director Roelant Oltmans is a constant presence in the stands and on the sidelines when the squad is training at the National Stadium.

Elsewhere, Australia U-21 coach Paul Gaudion is constantly in touch with Ric Charlesworth, who mentors the senior World Champion team. Such impressive guest appearances for an age-group event are understandable as, on the surface, there appears to be a direct correlation between a team's performance at the junior level and their fortunes at subsequent major senior-level events: World Cups and the Olympics.

Take Pakistan for example. Its junior team won the inaugural event in 1979 and racked up three bronze medals and a silver in the next four editions. Between 1979 and 1994, the Green Shirts won the two Senior World Cups (1982, 1994), and the 1984 Olympic gold.

Similarly, Germany, who won four successive junior titles between 1982-1993, bagged an Olympic gold and two silver medals, and five Champions Trophy titles between 1984 and 1992.

Catching them young

Australia, meanwhile, won their first and only Olympic gold in Athens 2004, seven years after their colts lifted their maiden junior World Cup at Milton Keynes, England.

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