Mexico’s women’s ice hockey team won the gold medal in their six-team division of the women’s world championship, which wrapped up in Iceland yesterday.
It was the first gold-medal win for Mexico at a full International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championship event.
Formed in 2012, the team made a bid last year for the 2018 Winter Olympics with two decisive wins at the qualifying round in Mexico City, with which it advanced to the next round in Kazakhstan.
But the women fell to tough competition from Kazakhstan, Poland and Great Britain.
The team’s win this past week in Akureyri, Iceland, which left it in 27th place in the women’s championships, earned it a promotion from Group B to Group A in Division II for next year.
Mexico beat Spain, Iceland, New Zealand and Romania to clinch the gold medal, losing only to Turkey.
Members of the team vary in age, with a strong contingent of under-20s. But it also has some experienced players such as Claudia Téllez, 32, who was drafted last year by the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Next up for the team is the Pan-Am tournament in June.
Many of the players began by playing inline hockey but now, says coach Diego de la Garma, there’s a new generation whose experience began on ice.
“Our program has been growing every year,” he said. “We’ve got lots of new players, young players, who are taking up the sport – and I think Mexico is falling in love with that.
“It used to be a bit of a taboo here if women played something that is seen as a men’s sport, but people can see how they play the game, how the girls give their hearts to the game, how they have had a lot of success in a little time. That’s a big deal, especially in team sports, because Mexico’s national teams haven’t had much success recently.”
A fallow period for Mexico’s soccer teams has given other sports a chance to make a mark, wrote journalist Andy Potts on the IIHF website. And the women’s hockey team is doing just that.
“Watching a women’s team winning a tournament, at any level, inspires people,” said de la Garma. “It gets everybody dreaming. It’s won us a lot of fans, not just in Mexico but in Latin America and even around the world. The girls play with so much passion, so much heart, and people respond to it.”
Mexico News Daily