Post-'Lucha', Argentina's Leonas target elusive gold medal

Wed May 18, 2016 7:30am EDT
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By Miguel Lobianco

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina have the ability to win an elusive Olympic gold medal in women's hockey at the Rio Games despite losing talismanic, eight-times world player of the year Luciana Aymar, coach Gabriel Minadeo said.

Aymar, famed and feared for her weaving runs and dribbling skills, retired at the end of 2014 after a medal-studded career - though without ever having won a gold.

"Argentina must learn to play without her, she wasn’t going to be eternal ... I think Argentina has potential and the players to be able to replace 'Lucha' with another gameplan,' Minadeo told Reuters in an interview.

"We're going to be able to show Argentina are a power without having 'Lucha'," said Minadeo, whose team will take part in the Champions Trophy in England next month.

"What she had was that she resolved things for you when they got complicated, with an individual move, pulling something out of the hat," he said after a practice at the Cenard national athletics training center in the capital.

However, for all her achievements, Aymar never managed to add the gold medal to two silver and two bronzes she won at the previous four Games starting with silver at Sydney 2000 when the team earned their nickname Las Leonas (lionesses).

Forward Carla Rebecchi, who took over from Aymar as team captain, said they had set themselves the target of the gold medal after winning a second silver at the London Games in 2012.

"We don’t want to put pressure on ourselves but we know it's the medal we’re missing and it's also a dream, we know it's difficult but we're doing everything we can ... to compete at the highest level," she told Reuters.   Continued...

Argentina's Luciana Aymar (R) with team mates greets spectators after being defeated by Netherlands during their women's gold medal hockey match at the Riverbank Arena at the London 2012 Olympic Games August 10, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett