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Hockey: Black Sticks women named for Rio Olympics

A surprise in the NZ women's hockey team for the Rio Olympics.

Veteran defender Emily Gaddum is pregnant with her first child and therefore unavailable.

21-year old striker Kelsey Smith has been included in the 16.

Kayla Whitelock regains the captaincy, after recently returning to the team after time out.

It's a team brimming with experience and talent, including five players who have played more than 200 internationals for their country.

The players were welcomed to the Olympic team at an announcement event co-hosted by the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Hockey New Zealand in Mount Eden this afternoon.

Talismanic midfielder Whitelock (247 tests) will suit up for her fourth Olympic Games having already competed at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.


Meanwhile Rio signals a third campaign for Gemma Flynn who first played at the Beijing Games as an 18-year-old, while Anita McLaren, Sam Charlton, Stacey Michelsen and Charlotte Harrison all head to their second Olympic Games having competed at London 2012.

Only three of the 16 players selected have played less than 100 games - defender Brooke Neal (88 tests) and strikers Kirsten Pearce (54) and Smith (20).

Capital's Smith is the bolter of the group, having been rewarded for her impressive performances at the International Hockey Open in Darwin and Champions Trophy in London earlier this year.

Smith is one of three hugely talented 21-year-olds in the team alongside Canterbury striker Sophie Cocks and Auckland defender Liz Thompson.

The team will be captained by Whitelock, with support from a leadership group which includes McLaren, Michelsen and Charlton.

New Zealand's most capped women's player of all-time Gaddum (274 tests) was unavailable for selection due to pregnancy with her first child.

Head coach Mark Hager said the team selected is very well balanced with a lot of experience and confidence.

"We're taking away a very strong team, it's well balanced and contains some great experience with six players who have been to an Olympic Games before, along with plenty of Commonwealth Games and World Cup experience," Hager said.

"This team is capable of medalling and we have proven over recent times that we can win in those high pressure situations which we will certainly face in Rio."

Black Sticks squad:

SAMANTHA CHARLTON
Age: 24
Hometown:
Position: Defender
Olympics: 2012
Fact: Charlton is nicknamed `Eddie', after the legendary Australian snooker player.

SOPHIE COCKS
Age: 21
Hometown: Christchurch
Position: Striker
Olympics: No
Fact: Despite her young age, Cocks has accumulated more than 100 tests for her country

GEMMA FLYNN
Age: 25
Hometown: Tauranga
Position: Midfield/Striker
Olympics: 2008, 2012
Fact: One of the best players in the world, but probably equally famous for being engaged to Richie McCaw

CHARLOTTE HARRISON
Age: 26
Hometown: Whangarei
Position: Striker
Olympics: 2012
Fact: Made her debut as a 16-year-old in 2005

PIPPA HAYWARD
Age: 25
Hometown: Christchurch
Position: Midfield
Olympics: No
Fact: Brought up a century of caps earlier this year

ROSE KEDDELL
Age: 22
Hometown: Tauranga
Position: Midfield
Olympics: No
Fact: Keddell is currently studying communications at Massey University

ANITA McLAREN
Age: 28
Hometown: Wellington
Position: Striker/Midfield
Olympics: 2012
Fact: McLaren is one of the fastest hockey players in the world, McLaren has also competed at national athletics championships .

OLIVIA MERRY
Age: 24
Hometown: Christchurch
Position: Striker
Olympics: No
Fact: Profilic scorer with one of the hardest shots in the team

STACEY MICHELSEN
Age: 25
Hometown: Whangarei
Position: Midfielder/Striker
Olympics: 2012
Fact: Named the World Junior Player of the year in 2012

BROOKE NEAL
Age: 23
Hometown: Whangarei
Position: Defender
Olympics: No
Fact: Neal's brother Shay plays for the Black Sticks men

KIRSTEN PEARCE
Age: 25
Hometown: Auckland
Position: Striker
Olympics: No
Fact: Pearce spent most of her formative years in New South Wales

SALLY RUTHERFORD
Age: 35
Position: Goalkeeper
Olympics: No
Fact: Rutherford has also represented New Zealand in Lacrosse

KELSEY SMITH
Age: 21
Hometown: Nelson
Position: Striker
Olympics: No
Fact: Smith has played just 20 matches for Mark Hagar's team

LIZ THOMPSON
Age: 21
Hometown: Auckland
Position: Defender
Olympics: No
Fact: Thompson took up the sport as an 8-year-old.

PETREA WEBSTER
Age: 26
Hometown: North Shore
Position: Striker
Olympics: No
Fact: Webster is also a teacher at Auckland's Carmel College

KAYLA WHITELOCK
Age: 30
Hometown: New Plymouth
Position: Midfielder
Olympics: 2004, 2008 & 2012
Fact: Whitelock has amassed 243 appearances for the Black Sticks

- NZ Herald

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