Continuing our series investigating all Olympic and Paralympic sports and how to get involved with them in London, we had a chat with Wapping Hockey Club, which is finishing the first half of the 2011-12 season in the top 3 of their respective (men's, women's and mixed) leagues.
London 2012's hockey competition will be less 'jolly hockey sticks' and more 'jolly hockey pitches' with blue and pink playing fields making a striking debut.
Although hockey is probably best known in the UK as a schoolgirl sport, Men's hockey first featured in the London 1908 Olympics, whilst the women's event didn't appear until 1980. It's a hugely popular Olympic spectacle; a fast-moving, non-contact sport played over two 35-minute halves.
There are 12 teams in both the men's and women's events, which will be played between 29 July and 11 August at the temporary Hockey Centre on the Olympic Park. The tournament starts with a preliminary pool stage, the two best teams from each pool go on to play each other in the semi-final, and the winners compete in the final.
We asked Ben Wiggins of Wapping Hockey Club to give us the lowdown on who to watch at London 2012 and how to start playing hockey in London:
Hockey is one of the sports that Team GB have a very good chance of adding to the medal tally. The Men's team finished 4th in the Hockey World Cup held in India last year, Team GB fell short in the Semi Finals to Germany 4-1 – something we are used to in a different ball game! The Men's team are currently in New Zealand after competing in the Hockey Champions Trophy. They finished 2nd losing out to Australia in the final.
The women's Team GB team have recently rounded their 5 game series against the USA with a 4 nil win. The 5 game whitewash over the emerging American team was a great result for the women's team, the squad is predominately made up by players from the English team who finished 3rd in the Women's word cup in Argentina last year.
It is hoped that the combination of home advantage with the increasing interest in hockey as a sport will mean medals for Team GB.
Wapping Hockey Club is based in Olympic host borough, Tower Hamlets, in the shadows of the Tower of London and the picturesque St. Katherine's Dock. The club is home to approximately 150 members making up 7 men's and 5 women's teams all competing in East and Essex Hockey Leagues.
While field sports of Football and Rugby enjoy swelling playing numbers from the Capital's population Hockey does not always enjoy such support. However, at a Club such as Wapping, the combination of social and friendly people and regular fitness seems to be the perfect mix for the busy city-living Londoner.
Like most clubs in London, Wapping has 2 successful mixed teams and that proves to be very popular with the membership, hockey is a social sport and rules are adapted for mixed games which makes it less intimidating. There are clubs all around London that have a mixture of competitive and social hockey, and most of them offer mid-week fitness and training sessions and games on Saturdays. Playing hockey keeps you fit and health. Not only do you get to work off those Christmas pounds but you meet a wide variety of people too.
Steve Turner, Wapping Hockey Club's Chariman explained;
At Wapping we have a mixture of City workers, bankers, lawyers as well as teachers, taxi drivers and nurses. It's a great combination that works amazingly well, our location in between the City and Canary Wharf, with the Royal London Hospital to the north and East London Overground line gives the club a diverse membership.
Hockey is a winter sport so you'll need a jumper for the colder months but other than that the usual gym gear can still be used. As sports go this is one of the more accessible. All you need is a pair of good trainers and some comfortable clothes. Most clubs will have a few spare sticks for newbies to borrow until they decide that they want to take the next step and get their own.
If you are interested in playing hockey or finding out more information visit the englandhockey.co.uk website or wappinghockeyclub.com. Wapping Hockey Club training starts up again on 14 Janury and newbies are always welcome.
Many thanks to Ben Wiggins
Get the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports in the run up to London 2012.