This years FIH Star Awards actually Make Sense…

For the Goalkeepers anyway, as the World No.1 in each gender have been voted FIH Goalkeepers of the Year.

Congratulations Vincent Vanasch & Rachael Lynch

Belgium’s Vincent Vanasch has been named as the 2019 FIH Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) can reveal. The Red Lions shot-stopper took the prize ahead of Australia’s Tyler Lovell and Victor Aly of Germany, who finished second and third respectively.

Vincent Vanasch has made history as the first goalkeeper to win three consecutive FIH Goalkeeper of the Year awards. In winning the title for the third time, the Belgium goalkeeper has cemented his reputation as the best ‘keeper in the world at the moment. At 33-years of age, Vanasch remains at the top of his game and, if selected, will be looking to compete in his third Olympic Games later this year.

With more than 230 international caps to his name, Vanasch has been with the Belgium squad throughout their exciting journey over the past eight years. From a fifth-place finish at the London 2012 Olympics to silver at Rio 2016. The Red Lions were crowned World Cup winners in 2018 and took over top spot in the FIH World Rankings in December 2018. The success continued throughout 2019 for both Belgium and Vanasch. 

The team finished in second place in the FIH Pro League, behind Australia, before they stormed to victory in front of an exuberant home crowd at the Belfius EuroHockey Championships. Vanasch was voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the end of that triumphant event. The first-place finish – which came courtesy of a dominant 5-0 win over Spain in the final – sealed Belgium’s spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

In a move that underlines Vanasch’s determination to keep setting himself new targets, Vanasch has recently moved clubs from Waterloo Ducks to Rott-Weiss Cologne. Praise for the Belgium ‘keeper’s approach to his craft comes from his club coach André Henning: “Vincent’s achievements and success speak for themselves. His sober nature, his hard work, his extremely high will to win and his enthusiasm for work make us all enthusiastic.”

Meanwhile in the women’s game, Australia’s Rachael Lynch took the prize. 

The Hockeyroos shot-stopper won the accolade ahead of Japan’s Megumi Kageyama and Maria Ruiz of Spain, who finished second and third respectively. 

Rachael Lynch’s performances in the FIH Hockey Pro League regularly earned her Player of the Match awards throughout the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League season. The tall goalkeeper was a commanding figure as she stood up to fierce shots or raced out to meet attackers during shoot-out situations. Time and again, Lynch provided the stability in defence that allowed the Hockeyroos to play the expansive, attacking hockey that saw them win silver in the Grand Final.

Lynch has been a member of the Hockeyroos since 2006 and has more than 220 international caps to her name, making her the most capped Australian goalkeeper and one of only 23 athletes to pass the 200-cap milestone. But, as she gains experience she just seems to keep getting better. In the semi-final of the FIH Hockey Pro League Grand Finals against Argentina, it was Lynch whose saves from Carla Rebecchi, Celina di Santo and Silvina D’Elia put her team in the final against the Netherlands.

The Oceania Cup was a disappointment for the Hockeyroos as they lost to New Zealand and thus faced an extra round of qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. However, a 4-2 and 5-0 win saw Australia qualify for the Olympic Games and, if selected, will offer 33-year-old Lynch her second shot at an Olympic medal [Lynch competed in Rio 2016 having missed out on selection in 2012].

Certainly a place at the Tokyo Olympics is something that is front and centre of her mind: “I’d still love to win a gold medal with this team and that’s something I’m passionate about. It’s still a long way off and we’ve got the FIH Hockey Pro League which is a really cool opportunity for the Hockeyroos and Hockey in general to promote our sport. I will embrace and enjoy it but Tokyo is the bigger focus.”

Images: World Sport Pics

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