HomeArticlesRio OlympicsHockey star Stéphane Vehrlé-Smith hopes Rio 2016 will build the sport in...

Hockey star Stéphane Vehrlé-Smith hopes Rio 2016 will build the sport in Brazil

‘Brazil’ and ‘hockey’ are two words that rarely appear in the same sentence but the English-born defender hopes to change that

Stéphane Vehrlé-Smith’s Olympic journey started with an email that seemed destined for his spam folder.

The 27-year-old hockey player — who was born in Recife in northern Brazil but raised in Great Britain — received a message from a stranger asking him about the possibility of joining Brazil’s national men’s hockey team.


“It said, ‘We have heard through our European contacts about you, the level you play and you have a Brazilian passport. Would you like to be part of our journey?’ I thought someone was winding me up in the dressing room so I deleted it immediately.

“I got another one a few days later, following up. I asked how they knew so much about me, a bit on the defensive. Bert said let’s Skype and told me all about the qualifying process and so on and I basically flew out to Brazil a week later.”


Vehrlé-Smith — who has been a fixture for England’s Holcombe hockey club since he debuted with the team as a 15 year-old — is now a top player on a Brazilian hockey team set to makes its Olympic debut.

The team qualified for the Rio Games with a top-six finish at the 2015 Pan-American Championship after beating the USA in a quarter-final penalty shootout and falling to Canada in a shootout in the semi-final.

The 30th-ranked team are in for a tough tournament, having to face Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Belgium and Spain in the group stage.

Vehrlé-Smith hopes the Games will build the sport in Brazil to the point where an email from a Brazilian hockey official is no longer viewed with surprise and suspicion.

“Football and beach volleyball drives Brazil at the moment but hopefully hockey can pick it up and build the momentum,” he said.

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