LILLEHAMMER – Skills Challenge participants from 21 countries, girls and boys, participated in a joint game on the outdoor rink themed “We are the World Winter Classic Game”.
For the skills challenge athletes it is not just about competing and the various skills tests, the idea is to bring as many countries as possible together and give them the chance to compete for medals. Athletes qualified from top hockey nations like Canada and Finland but also countries where ice hockey is not one of the top sports.
The results showed that countries with smaller hockey communities can develop skilled players as well with Eduard Cataneanu from Romania and Sena Takenaka from Japan winning the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.
Organized by the coaches and players from participating countries and supported by the Lillehammer 2016 Organizing Committee one day after the Men’s Skills Challenge Grand Final, the participating countries agreed to play such a game for the first time on the outdoor rink next to the Youth Olympic Village where people can try hockey most of the time.
The skaters were there while the goaltenders came from Norway. The teams were built according their national team jersey colours and at the end boys and girls from 21 countries were playing a mixed 60-minute special game.
The athletes are no strangers to each other. All of them came together the first time last July when the Global Skills Challenge Summit was held in Vierumaki, Finland, to identify the 16 girls and 16 boys who qualified for the 2nd edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Since then friendships have been built across the globe which will last for a lifetime. The game was tied after 60 minutes and ended with a penalty-shot shootout and at the end the idea itself and all participants were the winners.
Players who shared the dressing room while competing against each other for the duration of seven days enjoyed to the play the game even if it was cold.
“It was very unique to have so many countries in a game involved and everybody was looking forward to it,” Tabea Botthoff from Germany said. “Especially after the Skills Challenge it was a lot of fun to play such a game.”
“It was simply amazing. To have so many countries come together to play a friendly game of hockey on an outdoor rink would have made the pioneers of the sport proud,” said Justin Daigle from New Zealand, one of the coaches involved in organizing the game.
“We wanted to provide the skills competition athletes with an opportunity to play a game and I can’t think of a more unique experience for them to take part in.”
Participating players: Iara Haiek (Argentina), Madison Poole (Australia), Jake Riley (Australia), Benjamin Baumgartner (Austria), Theresa Schafzahl (Austria), Daria Maximchik (Belarus), Chinouk van Calster (Belgium), Mu-Hsin Hsieh (Chinese Taipei), Kiia Nousiainen (Finland), Antonin Plagnat (France), Erik Betzold (Germany), Tabea Botthof (Germany), Verity Lewis (Great Britain), Natan Vertes (Hungary), Anita Muraro (Italy), Roy Kanda (Japan), Sena Takenaka (Japan), SuYeon Eom (Korea), Dino Mukovoz (Lithuania), Maree Dijkema (Netherlands), Ties van Soest (Netherlands), Oliver Curtis (New Zealand), Sander Hurrod (Norway), Millie Rose Sirum (Norway), Katarzyna Wybiral (Poland), Diana-Alexandra Iuga (Romania), Sebastian Cederle (Slovakia).