Superstar and world goalscoring record holder Pietie Coetzee of the Southern Gauteng and Investec South Africa women’s hockey teams has been included as a finalist in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Player of the Year nominations.
The annual prize recognise the finest women’s hockey players in the game as voted for by athletes representing the world’s best international teams.
On June 21 this year, Coetzee became the all-time leading goalscorer in women’s international hockey when she scored four goals against 2011 Pan American Games winners the USA during the Champions Challenge tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.
Coetzee broke Russian Natella Krasnikova’s previous record of 220.
With the Investec SA team poised to play a host of Test matches in 2012 that includes over a dozen matches against Spain, Ireland and Belgium at the Kaspersky Randburg Hockey Stadium from January 15 to February 6 before the team moves to Delhi in India for the Olympic Qualifier tournament from February 15 to 26, it is a record she looks likely to embellish further.
Currently being rested for the two Four Nations tournament under way this month in Argentina, Coetzee (33) should be refreshed and raring to go next year, which points to her 226 goals in 228 Test matches being taken to a new level.
What sets the Bloemfontein-born former Oranje Meisieskool goalpoacher apart (Coetzee’s debut was at age 16) from just about any other sportsperson in history is that she only returned to the game at the September 2010 World Cup in Argentina, having taken a five-year sabbatical from the game.
At age 27 she had retired while in the prime of her career with 191 goals in 193 Test matches. Quite incredibly, she returned to the international stage after that five-year hiatus and has scored 35 goals in 35 Test matches.
However, she is up against stiff competition in “the Magician”, as she is known in her country, Luciana Aymar of Argentina, who has claimed the prize a sensational eight times since 2001.
The other nominations are:
* 34-year old German striker Natascha Keller, who led her country to the final of the EuroHockey Nations Championships where she was named Player of the Tournament;
* Dutch captain Maartje Paumen, arguably women’s hockey’s most dangerous penalty corner flicker, who steered her team to gold at both the Champions Trophy and EuroHockey Nations Championships, taking the top scorer title in both competitions; and
* China midfielder Li Hongxia, who also caught the eye of the nominating panel as a standout player this year.
Nominations for this prestigious prize have been put together by a panel of selected coaches from many of the world’s best international teams.
The women’s awards will be presented during the Champions Trophy in Rosario, Argentina next month. The 2011 World All Star team will be decided by public vote on the FIH website between December 12 and 21.