Canada’s men’s field hockey squad eyes Olympic berth after tough loss in Pan Am final

Losing in the men’s field hockey finals at the Guadalajara Pan Am Games in Mexico last year was tough on the Canadian national team, Robert Short says.

The midfielder tried to maintain his composure, he said, while seeing teammates break down in tears.

“I remember being on the podium and looking over at my mom,” he said over the phone from British Columbia. “She had this look of, ‘We love you boys’. That was hard.”

“When you lose something as big as that, it can be disappointing,” said Toronto-native and Centennial College-alum Ken Pereira, the team’s 38-year-old captain. “You just have to put it behind you.”

The team now has its sights set on the 2012 London Olympics. Later this month, the men’s field hockey squad, ranked 14 in the world, is set to head to New Delhi, India, where it hopes to qualify for an Olympic spot.

“You go through these dips after big losses,” Short said. “It hurts, but you’ve just got to grind it out.”

This may be Short’s last crack at the Olympics. He’ll likely stop playing in the next couple of years, the 39-year-old said.

But not yet.

“The passion for the sport is so evident that Robert still has put that in front of other parts of his life,” Short’s mother Anne Short said over the phone from B.C. “I think that’s extraordinary, really.”

Short, who was born in England, was steered toward field hockey by his parents, he said.

“I wanted to play ice hockey,” he said. “But my parents being English didn’t buy into the whole body checking and fans yelling from the sidelines. So I was put into field hockey.”

Since then, Short’s career has included trips to the Olympics in 2000 and 2008, and four Pan Am medals, two gold and two silver.

“It’s a shame it has to come to an end, but it has to sooner or later,” he said. “I do appreciate everything that I’ve had. I’ve been really lucky.”

Though his playing career is winding down, Short said he wants to teach others what he’s learned over the years. He holds an International Master in Coaching from the Johan Cruyff Institute for Sports Studies in Amsterdam.

“I definitely want to get into coaching,” he said. “I want to give back to the sport.”