Wild Woman Leen Looks Back On World Championship Campaign
Wild’s Leen de Decker (on the right) with her silver medal from the WCQs in Taiwan.
Widnes Wild women’s team player Leen de Decker was in action for her native Belgium in a World Championships Qualifying tournament in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) just before Christmas.
The Belgian team beat South Africa 8-1, Hong Kong 7-0 and Bulgaria 6-0 before losing out 1-2 in their last group game against the hosts, the result which decided the outcome of the group as both teams had previously been unbeaten. The result meant that Chinese Taipei finished top of the 5 team group and Belgium finished second.
De Decker scored 4 goals and 1 assist in her 4 games and was the top scorer on the Belgium team – and 5th in terms of goals for the whole tournament overall.
We caught up with Leen and asked her about her experience at the WCQs and her overall involvement in ice hockey to date….
1: How was your overall experience at the WCQs in Taiwan?
I had a great experience in Taipei. I love playing hockey and this was a great chance to help out my national team. I was asked to bring some experience to what is a very young team and I was happy to do so. It was great to see some of the younger players on the team growing throughout the tournament.
2: What was the level of competition like from the other teams and how disappointing was it to lose out in the very last game to the hosts?
It was the qualification level, which we were obliged to enter as Belgium – by deciding to not go to the Worlds last year – were automatically relegated. Hong Kong, Bulgaria and South-Africa, whilst having great spirit, unfortunately, do not have a great hockey tradition in their country and that does get reflected in the skills of the teams. Taipei, on the other hand, has taken a very professional approach to ice hockey in their country and – due to funding – were able to have a great preparation for this championship. We were very matched in skill and teamplay, but with Taipei having some referee decisions go their way, and the crowd behind them, just had the upper hand. To lose with a very contested goal (puck never did cross the line, we believe) was hard to take.
3: You hadn’t played for Belgium for a while – was that a personal choice or a selection issue…?
I hadn’t played since 2013. This was due to not being able to combine work and career that easily anymore. I was asked, but could not commit to the time required. This year I was able to take the time off work to attend.
4: How did you first get into playing hockey in Belgium?
The classic story: my brother played (and still does) so I wanted to play as well.
5: What brought you to England and how hard was it to find a team to play with?
I first played in England when I was studying at Hull University. I then returned to Belgium to start my career in an international firm and a few years later ended up in Manchester due a re-location of my department. And I’m still here 8 years on.
6: How would you compare the women’s game in Belgium with the game here, ie playing standards, organisation etc
No comparison, there currently is no women’s competition in Belgium…. something I highly regret and keep lobbying the federation to change. When I started playing there was a Dutch-Belgian joint women’s competition on top of a Belgian cup competition with the 6 women’s team we had in Belgium. However due to some ice-rinks closing and no support from the Belgian federation for a long period of time, the competition was not organised anymore and the teams folded with a lot of girls quitting the sport as they did not want to play in the men’s teams.
7: What are your hopes for the Widnes Wild women’s team?
My hopes for the team are to remain a greatly competitive team that can challenge the top teams in our league and offer exciting hockey to our fans. It’s great to see the younger players getting better year on year and, hopefully, we’ll be able to attract and develop some great players so we can become an established name in women’s hockey under the Widnes Wild name!
8: What are your own long term goals in ice hockey?
I love the sport so I just want to keep playing as long as I can. Further to that I would love to be involved in the development of women’s hockey in Widnes. Why not dream to have 2 women’s teams (Elite and Premier League) or even a junior women’s team? This will be a very long term goal, but I believe with the right support and help around us, we can make this happen.
Interview by Paul Breeze (www.icehockeyreview.co.uk)
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