Delfino Merino of Argentina and Arthur van Doren of Belgium both enjoyed a great 2017 season.
For Van Doren, the year included a silver medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam and a first place finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg, where the defender was voted Young Player of the Tournament.
For Merino, a gold medal at the Pan American Cup was the highlight of the year but the incredibly skilled forward was also joint top scorer at the Hockey World League Final in Auckland and received player of the match votes on numerous occasions as she led her team from the front.
However, both Merino and Van Doren have something else in common, they are both seeking a big win on the global hockey stage. For Merino, Argentina is still a team that is rebuilding after some high profile retirements, most notably Luciana Aymar and Carla Rebecchi. A fifth place finish at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final in Auckland was way off their best and they also slipped down the FIH Hero World Rankings from second to third in the world. Merino is determined her team will be ready for the challenge in London later this year.
"As a team I think we grew throughout 2017", said 28-year-old Merino. "At the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg we were okay but we were much better at the Hockey World League Final in Auckland. Even though we finished fifth I think we did a really good job as a team, so I’m really looking forward to the coming year with Las Leonas. The World Cup is a really big event and it is going to be tough because every team trains hard to be successful there, but we will fight really hard to win that title."
Belgium have made huge strides forwards as they have moved up the rankings and regularly find themselves on the podium but, while a string of silver medals is pleasing, the colour the Red Lions most crave is gold. Van Doren is delighted to have won both the Player of the Year award and the Rising Star Award, for the second time, proclaiming: “I really didn’t see this one coming, especially because of the fact that the other nominees are such talented athletes.”
But while Merino and Van Doren are celebrating a good 2017 from a personal point of view, both athletes are determined their teams will enjoy on an even better 2018.