JOHANNESBURG - The South African men's and women's hockey teams have had their aspirations to represent South Africa at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games shattered.
The South African national hockey team captains and coaches spoke to eNCA.com about their disappointments after the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) announced that the teams would not be going to the Olympics.
Both teams qualified earlier this month for the Olympic Games after being crowned the African champions at the Greenfields African Hockey Championships which took place in Randburg, Johannesburg.
The teams met qualification criteria as set out by the International Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee but had not met Sascoc's preferred qualification route.
"Sascoc took hard line with SA Hockey and insisted that the national hockey team qualify via the Hockey World League Round 3 event and would not consider the additional option available to the team of qualifying via the continental competition," the South African Hockey Association said.
Women's captain, Nicolene Terblanche said her team had accepted they were not going to Rio.
"It's really sad and disappointing. It's tough but we will keep working. The decision for us not to go changes a lot of things and things will be different for the sport and its future."
Women's hockey coach Sheldon Rostron said the team was very disappointed.
"It has taken a long journey to prepare for the Olympics. The announcement by Sacoc was a massive blow to the team and it has had a huge impact on how the team feels.
"This was a huge opportunity for the team to crack and break into the top ten rankings. This will have a huge effect on our rankings.”
An online petition to get the teams to the Olympics was handed over to Sascoc. It had been signed by more than 15,000 supporters.
Rostron said no further action had been taken.
"The players have made huge sacrifices to prepare for the Olympics, which have a 4-year cycle. Some of them stopped working and others stopped studying. The commitment from the team and staff was not reciprocated from Sascoc."
"The criteria set by Sascoc was difficult to meet and we only missed it by 1 point. It's unfair and Sascoc should have reconsidered. The Olympics are a privilege and honour and the pinnacle of sports. The team going to Rio was going to be the first step in achieving medals but now we will slide in world rankings, most likely to 15" he said.
"The team is extremely disappointed as it is the pinnacle of our sport to play in an Olympic Games. We currently have a very talented and determined bunch of players in the SA Men's Team and I strongly believe if we were given the opportunity to play in Rio, we would have done something special," said Timothy Drummond, SA hockey men's captain.
"As in all sporting careers you experience highs and lows. We went from a very proud moment winning the Africa Nations Cup which have the team a tremendous boost in confidence and morale to a very disappointing moment finding out we would be unable to display our true potential at an Olympic Games."
Drummond thanked the public for its support with the petition.
"The public support has been incredible and we are sincerely grateful for the backing we have received with regards to the Petition and other media platforms. Unfortunately it was unable to influence the decision to send our Men's and Ladies team 's to Rio next year."
Fabian Gregory, hockey men's coach said he was also disappointed after having qualified.
"We believe the way we qualified is the correct route.
"There are no sponsors in both teams. No support," he said.
"The players have to pay to get to events. It will be difficult to get players motivated. I don't know how many players would want to go to the 2018 Hockey World Cup. This will affect our rankings."
Gregory said it was time the Department of Sport and Recreation "stepped in and looked at what was done at Sascoc."
"The Minister of Sport [ Fikile Mbalula] must come to the party. He is very outspoken and supports all sporting codes . It will be very interesting to see where the minister stands on this point."
"It is sad to witness such decisions from administrators who claim to have the best interests for sport. Sascoc did not take the 2022 Olympics into account when they decided not to take the teams to Rio."
The men's and women's hockey teams are currently ranked 15th and 11th respectively in the FIH world rankings.