While the stage is set in Santiago for the XIX Pan American Games two teams had the spotlight before the hockey pitches hosted its first official games. On 23 October two hockey teams featuring athletes with intellectual disabilities took to the stadium including Chile’s Hock-in and the visiting Lionas from Argentina.
As part of the tournament preparations, both teams got to experience the full match presentations including national anthems, their parents and friends in the stands, their names read out loud and playing in an internationally certified hockey stadium.
“It’s difficult for me to express the emotions I felt (on Monday) at the stadium, where players from Chile and Argentina entered the field, sang their anthems, and prepared to start a match that, in my perspective, marks a before and after in Pan American hockey,” said Silvina Gorrisen the founder of the Hockey ID program in Argentina.
The Argentina programs for hockey players with intellectual disabilities started in 2017 and now features teams in over 12 provinces and across several countries in South America.
Meanwhile, in Santiago, Daniela Caram has helped grow the Hockey ID program in Chile since 2019. Caram, a three-time Pan American games athlete herself, already works with people in different disadvantaged situations through sport classes but now she could bring her passion of hockey to the table.
“I got involved because I always wanted everyone to have chance to do sports,” said Caram, who is the older sister to current Chilean captain Camila Caram. “I’m a hockey player so, I’m obviously happy if everyone can play hockey. A few years ago Florencia, our other founder who already worked with people with intellectual disabilities in our job, started small training sessions with her patients and I thought it was a great idea and that’s how it started.”
“For me it’s special because this makes a space for everyone to play field hockey and everyone should have that chance,” added Caram. “Before us that didn’t exist. Having the possibility for them to play hockey is very big and powerful. What they usually get is a lot of therapy but this is like a hobby so they really enjoy coming. They can train like anyone else and they can meet with other people, have teammates, make new friends and that is quite amazing.”
In addition to the stadium match, the visiting Argentina team had a chance to have a practice session at the Prince of Wales Country Club, as well as watch the world-class Leonas at their practice session and cheer the Leonas on in their first match on 26 October.
“Personally, it’s a dream come true for me, not just for myself but for so many people who believe that diversity enriches us all,” added Gorrisen, who plays herself at Belgrano Athletic Club in Buenos Aires. “From the sport itself and the development of the players, watching them move on the field with technique, tactics, teamwork, I can’t express with words sense of love and pride I feel. No one has a limit and each individual is unique. We believe that by providing opportunities, growth has no limits.”
Caram credits the collaboration with the PAHF organization and staff to make it possible to bring Hockey ID to the stadium but also encourages others around the world to consider starting their own programs where they are.
“It’s not very different than forming any other team,” explains Caram. “The rules are nearly the same but it might just take a little more time to teach the hockey. So, jump in and go for it. The reward for the coaches, families and players is amazing. Use the energy of everybody around you. Parents and volunteers will always be willing to help so take advantage of that in a good way and bring it on!”