MIAMI (April 24, 2012) - There is no higher honor in sports than to represent your country in the Olympics and that's exactly how FIU standout Anthony Hobbs will spend his summer in hopes of representing his home country New Zealand in the 2012 London Olympics.
"The whole Olympic experience is something that was never on my mind growing up," said Hobbs. "As a kid, I dreamt about playing for the top club teams in the world like Arsenal and Barcelona, and of course, playing for your national team in the world cup. Growing up I watched the Olympics and saw the great athletes compete at the highest level, but I never really thought I would be able to compete alongside of them at the Olympic Games."
The past few years have been a worldwind experience for Hobbs. Besides being a three-time All-Conference USA defender at FIU, he competed in the U17 World Cup in Korea and most recently, the U20 World Cup in Colombia. The next step for Hobbs was the U23 Olympic Team.
"The more I thought about my past experiences with age group national teams, the more I was driven to reach the next step." Hobbs added.
In March, Hobbs was given the opportunity of a lifetime to compete for a spot in the Olympics as part of the U23 New Zealand team.
"Arriving in camp, I could tell there was a lot of excitement and expectation among the group, but with expectations comes nerves because we all knew what was at stake -- a spot in the 2012 Olympic Games," said Hobbs. "The environment was just amazing. It was so professional, organized and competitive. There was a lot of quality within the players and the staff. Our team was made up of professionals, local players and three U.S. based players all with one goal in mind, getting to London."
The road to London wouldn't be an easy one for the Kiwis who were looking to make their second-consecutive appearance in the games after having never qualified for a tournament before Beijing in 2008.
"I was so excited to be a part of this opportunity and what it had to offer," said Hobbs. "Having the opportunity to get my country to the Olympics drove me and everyone else on my team. "Having my whole country rally around us was an amazing feeling."
Hobbs' drive is what he ultimately hopes lands him a spot on the Oly Whites football team. After his squad qualified for the London Games with a 1-0 victory over Fiji in the OFC Men's Olympic qualifier in Taupo, Hobbs was notified that he would indeed remain with the team and represent his country this summer.
"Representing your country is the most spectacular feeling an athlete could have," said Hobbs. "I'm already getting goose bumps thinking about hearing the national anthem being played during the opening ceremonies. It hasn't quite hit me that come July 27, I could be standing next to Olympic greats like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. This is where every athlete wants to be. We [New Zealand] have the opportunity to create something special and compete for a medal at the Olympics. It is what every athlete trains years for. All of those 6:00 a.m. weight sessions, running laps and extra training are absolutely worth it in the end. It's only a small price to pay for what the rewards may be."
The New Zealand native was rewarded as part of the Men's Group 'C', which features Egypt, Belarus and international soccer powerhouse Brazil.
"Our men's soccer program is thrilled to have one of the only current players in college soccer to contribute to his country's Olympic qualification," said new FIU Men's Soccer Coach Kenny Arena. "Anthony's achievements are a tribute to his relentless hard work and dedication. Our team is very proud of him and we look forward to seeing him upon his return from New Zealand, hopefully with a medal around his neck."
Hobbs will head home to participate in camps and tours in hopes of making the final Olympic roster. New Zealand will take on Belarus on Thursday, July 26 in the start of the group matches at the City of Coventry Stadium one day before the official opening ceremonies. They will then face Egypt on July 29 at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester before an August 1 matchup with Brazil at St. James' Park in Newcastle.
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