Being one of the country’s top field hockey players comes with an extra burden these days for Sara McManus.
The 25-year-old from Tsawwassen is one of the greatest players to ever come out of the Falcons Field Hockey Club.
The standout defender has been a fixture with the national team since she was 17 and already has 165 international caps to her credit which ranks near the top in the history of the senior women's national team program.
Along the way, McManus helped Canada win bronze at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and also was a member of dominant run at UBC that won national titles in 2012-13.
The South Delta Secondary graduate wants nothing more than to get to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Canada hasn’t reached the sport’s pinnacle event since the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.
”My dream of playing at the Olympic Games is what motivates me to play field hockey. With the Tokyo 2020 Games so close it’s really my only focus,” said McManus. “But my teammates are also a big motivation and inspiration to me. Being on the pitch with them every day and seeing their efforts really pushes me to be my best.”
Recent results on the international stage have been encouraging.
The 21st-ranked Canadians lost just three of 34 matches during the 2018 season. Those defeats came against No.1 Netherlands, No. 3 Australia and No. 12 United States while wins were posted against several higher ranked teams including Germany, Spain, France and South Africa.
To enhance the push to Tokyo, national team head coach Giles Bonnet decided last summer it would be best for his squad to be based in Europe in the months leading up to the first stage of Olympic qualifying — June 19-27 in Valencia, Spain.
“We moved our home base to Belgium as a more cost effective way of getting valuable game experience. Twenty-two athletes uprooted their lives without question - leaving family, partners and friends behind,” continued McManus, who is one of four Canadians playing for the Royal Hockey Club in Leuven. “We are currently stationed at different clubs throughout Belgium and Holland, but come together as a national team three days a week to train. Some athletes drive over two and a half hours to get to training and sleep two to three nights per week at a teammate's place. Often on the floor or a couch!”
The Canadian team is chasing its Olympic dream with little in the way of government funding.
The bulk of it was withdrawn two years ago by the Sport Support Program based on the team’s success at the international level at the time.
“This meant that on top of training and competing, we had to focus on how we could generate funds to keep our program going,” continued McManus.
The team launched a crowdfunding campaign — makeachamp.com/canwolfpack — March 1 to at least cover the expenses of attending the qualifying tournament in Spain — expected to be $75,000. So far nearly $43,000 has been raised.
“I try not to look too far into the future, I’d rather give this cycle my complete focus and dedication,” added McManus. “I’m really excited about the progress my team is making and looking forward to this upcoming year!”