Lacrosse a ‘realistic’ chance of featuring in 2028 Olympics, says Asia-Pacific boss at Hong Kong Open

The sport is pushing hard to receive recognition as Asian nations – including Hong Kong – make strides

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 8:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 10:42pm

Lacrosse fans will have to wait at least eight more years for a “realistic” chance to be included at the Olympic Games but the sport may gain Olympic recognition as soon as this year, according to the Asia-Pacific Lacrosse Union (APLU).

“There are five sports seeking it at the moment and we are hopeful that we will be recognised this year,” said APLU executive director Fiona Clark at the 2018 Hong Kong Lacrosse Open – the four-day international tournament which will crown its overall men’s and women’s champions at King’s Park on Tuesday.

“We have been recognised as a sport by the [2017] World Games and we’ve just heard that we have been accepted in 2021 in Birmingham, Alabama – both men’s and women’s – which is extremely positive.”

After announcing it had dropped wrestling, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved five new sports at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: a combination of baseball and softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding.

While lacrosse briefly featured at the Summer Olympics – 1904 and 1908 in a men-only affair and as demonstration sports in 1928, 1932 and 1948 – it will have to wait at least until the Los Angeles 2028 Games for a possible return.

“[Tokyo] is too soon and we’ll probably miss [Paris] 2024. Realistically, we’re looking at 2028,” said Australian Clark, the former president of the International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Associations.

Clark said her Olympic dream started back in 2004 where, as president, she found the number one goal in lacrosse across both genders was Olympic representation.

The rumblings of change triggered the unification of the men’s and women’s federations, with the establishment of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) in 2008.

This linear shift allowed for realistic talk of IOC recognition and Sport Accord acceptance as they commonly deal with only one international federation for each sport.

“There’s an IOC meeting in July and at the end of the year. Then the FIL will need to look at what game will be taken,” said Clark, referring to the different set of rules between men’s and women’s lacrosse.

According to the Hong Kong Open rule book, men’s lacrosse is a full contact sport and players are required to wear protective gear – gloves, arm pads, shoulder pads and helmets. Women’s lacrosse is a non-contact sport and players are required to wear only eye and mouth guards.

“At the moment the IOC want one game – by men and women – and there will be restrictions on team numbers and maybe field size,” Clark said.

“The men’s and women’s field games are very distinctive and it’s the game that we’ve grown up with. At the same time we also move with the times, so it’s going to be a challenge at international level – we have to see what we can make work for the good of the game.”

Whether the sport will merge into one or introduce some form of semi-contact regulations, Clark is encouraged by the big strides taken by Asian nations in the sport having seen many of them in action over the weekend.

“Hong Kong are doing very well and have been in the last three Asia-Pacific championships – their development programmes are obviously paying off,” Clark said.

“APLU understands that countries develop in their own ways. For example, Japan developed [the sport] into colleges of physical education in the 1980s. It took off and they very quickly became a strong force in the lacrosse world, winning the Asian championships in recent years, both men and women.

Lacrosse World Cup rebuild in full swing for Hong Kong women’s team after thumping win over China

“The women’s are not quite as competitive and still sit in the middle bracket,” she said. “Korea played a good World Cup last year but we need to develop in other areas such as Malaysia, Singapore and new countries. Our Asia-Pacific representatives at the FIL will be looking to develop lacrosse in the area and women will certainly be a focus.”

Clark hopes more young females in Asia will warm to the sport as it strives to realise its Olympic ambitions.

“It’s a relatively new sport in many of these countries,” she said. “Some of them may have seen the men play and not the women. Sometimes you have to spell out that you don’t wear protective equipment – except the [goalkeeper] – and that it’s non-contact.

“It’s probably too young right at the beginning to talk about it, but once they get into the sport, the career pathway in lacrosse is very good, whether it’s Asia-Pacific [level], regional, youth, officiating or coaching.”

Top 20 in the world? Hong Kong lacrosse team aiming high at the world championship

Reigning men’s Open champions Hong Kong will face Thailand at King’s Park on Tuesday afternoon after defeating Team JJ 12-3 in the semi-finals on Monday.

In the women’s tournament, undefeated Hong Kong A beat Euhreuns 20-2 to take first place of the group. They face Hokkaido in the semis.