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Vanina Oneto FIELD HOCKEY A SHARPSHOOTING FORWARD LIT A FIRE JUST BY RUBBING a couple sticks together

Feb. 26, 2002
Feb. 26, 2002

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Feb. 26, 2002

Vanina Oneto FIELD HOCKEY A SHARPSHOOTING FORWARD LIT A FIRE JUST BY RUBBING a couple sticks together

It was a bit strange at first, but Vanina Oneto, the
sharpshooting forward on Argentina's national field hockey team,
has grown accustomed to police escorts. Because field hockey
stadiums, unlike soccer venues, are not equipped to stop a
dangerous mob from spilling onto the field, the first ladies of
Argentine sport get personal attention from the authorities. Add
to that the adoring fans who approach Oneto on the street and
the days she spends shooting television commercials, and she
often imagines she's dreaming. Not that she minds. "I don't want
to open my eyes," says Oneto, a 28-year-old who led her team to
the silver medal at the 2000 Olympics and to the Champions
Trophy last summer. "I want this all to continue."

This is an article from the Feb. 26, 2002 issue Original Layout

Oneto has helped turn field hockey into the women's equivalent
of soccer in Argentina. During the Sydney Games the Argentine
team, known back home as las Leonas (the Lionesses), roused
Argentineans out of bed at four in the morning for live
telecasts of their games. Oneto, who scored four goals against
New Zealand to propel Argentina to the gold medal match, is
known for displaying her feelings on the field. She and las
Leonas, a name they gave themselves to remind them to be
courageous, screamed, cried and rejoiced at each pivotal play,
stirring their country to feel every emotion with them. Along
the way field hockey in Argentina was transformed from a sport
that little girls play to one that grown men watch. When the
Australian national team visited last April for a four-match
series, 18,000 fans showed up with drums in their hands and
songs in their throats. "A few years ago only our family and
people we knew came," says Oneto. "Now everybody's really
passionate. There's really a romance between them and us."

The romance is particularly strong with Oneto, who spends her
time coaching kids at hockey clinics when she's not training
with the national team or her San Fernando club. "Being part of
making hockey grow in Argentina is great," she says, "and I want
to make it grow, grow and grow as much as I can." --Andrea Woo

COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY