Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Hockey's where the heart is.

Ironically, I have found this the hardest post to write so far! In the UK, media attention surrounding the wonderful sport of field hockey has been ever increasing in the build up to the London Olympics. For Team GB there have been big sponsorship deals, televised games and even a visit from the Duchess of Cambridge herself!
Personally, I can write more in depth on the female teams. The womens GB side has seen a great wealth of success this year in the run up to the Olympics, winning silver at the Champion's Trophy and winning the Visa International Invitational Hockey Tournament on home turf. It is clear already that the Argentinians are a good exciting match up for the Brits! Their latest result in the London Investec Cup is perhaps not the most convincing by not reaching the semis but the team had a few key players missing due to injury. The team is composed of a majority of English players, one Welsh but also an impressive representation of Scots including the talented Abi Walker, Emily Maguire, Laura Bartlett and not forgetting Vikki Bunce as a part of the extended training squad. On a personal note, I have had the privilege of playing along side Bartlett and her sister with my former club and seen first hand the sacrifice, determination and willingness she has given to reach such heights in this sport- an inspiration. From watching Maguire she has been very reliable and solid in defence usually at left back which is regarded as one of the more challenging positions in hockey. A key player for the team is their captain Kate Walsh with nearly 200 caps for England and just over 100 caps for GB, she definitely holds a lot of experience and knowledge which she can bring to London.
Closer to home, it is another competition packed summer for many of our national teams. The major event for many of the Scottish senior players and up and coming juniors is Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Like many sports, it is a long term training programme and preparation process that athletes stick to so that they can produce their best performances at these major events. This summer sees the senior woman side in action with a friendly against Ireland and the Celtic Cup tournament. Recently the senior woman hosted South Africa at my old club's fantastic new pitch in a five game encounter. This was an opportunity for the head coach, Gordon Shepherd, to give international debuts to some of his younger players. These included Ali Howie, Nicki Skrastin, Sarah Robertson and Kerry Hall. South Africa preparing for the Olympics in August are a strong physical side which allowed the youngsters in particular the chance to step up and compete.  The senior woman have been blessed with a core group of very committed and talented players over recent years. One of the teams key players, Linda Clement, embodies awesome skill, speed and awareness on the pitch which is shown by her 174 caps so far for Scotland. Again, this year I have been lucky enough to play along side many of these players at club level and pick up tips and advice from the best. To look to the future past the Games, it will be the responsibility of the younger less experienced players to keep competing for positions and striving to be the best.

GB champions at Games test
Finishing on an Olympic note, hopefully the pink turf will work in GB's favour! #teamGB

GB Olympic Squad
Ashleigh Ball (Brighton, Cheltenham, 26) Laura Bartlett (Glasgow, 23)Crista Cullen (Boston, London, 26) Alex Danson (Southampton, Odiham, 26) Hannah Macleod (Huntingdon, 27) Emily Maguire (Paisley, 23) Anne Panter (Wellingborough, 28) Helen Richardson (Hitchin, West Bridgford, 30) Chloe Rogers (Great Dunmow, 27) Beth Storry (Reading, 32) Sarah Thomas (Merthyr Tydfil, 31) Georgie Twigg (Lincoln, 21)Laura Unsworth (Sutton Coldfield, 24) Kate Walsh (Stockport, 32) Sally Walton (Solihull, 30) Nicola White (Oldham, 24) Two reserve athletes are:Natalie Seymour (Maidstone, 25) Abi Walker (Glasgow, 30).

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