The 35-year-old American, Jens Hinderlie, lives in Rio de Janeiro and has been coach of the Brazilian Ice Hockey Team since 2015. In the first campaign, he led the country to the unprecedented bronze medal at the Pan American Games in the City from Mexico. Now, about to participate in another edition, he details his experience alongside the Brazilian team, the challenges of the sport and expectations for the competition, which takes place between June 5 and 11 in Mexico again.
In 2015, Brazil won its first medal in ice hockey. Can we expect results as good or even better?
It seems like every year is evolving. In 2015, our best year, we had full support, structure and a plan to build a competitive hockey team – and we won the bronze medal. Last year things changed. Some of our best athletes could not go. We struggled to score and finished fourth. I did not have that much talent, but in many ways I think we’ve improved. This year we have made several recruitment’s and tried to convince some of the best players to go to Mexico. I am very confident in the list of athletes we are bringing in this year. The challenge is how fast we can become a team – it’s our next hurdle. We have only a few days to prepare. I’m very excited. I think we have a great chance of competing for gold.
What are the main challenges for the advancement of ice hockey in Brazil?
The biggest obstacles are infrastructure, organization and culture. We do not have ice to practice and train. If we had, even for a month, it would help a lot! We also have to be well organized to plan for the future. Brazil is hungry for something new in sports. Ice hockey can feed this hunger, but we have to start slow. We have to be patient, but at the same time keep spreading what we are already doing.
What can ice hockey do to grow in the country?
We must continue to share our history. We have a great documentary produced last season and we have to be successful when we play international matches. We get a lot of interest from people in the United States and Canada. Thus, aid from outside of the country will be the key. Besides, who knows even a Hollywood movie can be made about us? We only have one direction to go and it’s up!
What are the main objectives in preparation for the Pan American Ice Hockey?
Our focus will be on team play. Hockey is a great collective sport and we have to have everyone on the same page. Trust, responsibility, sacrifice, and work ethic: all of these components are crucial to successful teams. And, finally, train the brains of these players to think about ice hockey. It’s a different sport than inline and we have a very short time to prepare ourselves.
Who are the main rivals for Brazil and what does our team need to do to beat them?
I would say that Mexico’s U-20 team is our biggest rival. We had some great games against them last seasons. Of course, Argentina is also a great opponent. But we get better every year and I’m very proud to train these athletes. We hope to have the support of all Brazil!