The Mixed Zone is committed to highlighting Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic heroines who lit up Rio long after they have returned home to deserved acclaim. We will be producing regular updates and interviews in our ‘What Happened Next’ series. Here, in association with Investec, GB captain Kate Richardson-Walsh explains how the hockey team won their truly inspirational gold medal
I feel like I’m living in a dream world and that at some point I will wake up and the last month will have all been a figment of my imagination! Just a week ago we took to the hockey field in the Olympic Final in Rio against the Netherlands and won! Cue mad scream, massive smile and then some tears. There has been a lot of that over the last few days.
You may or may not have followed the GB women’s hockey journey over the last few years, but let me tell you, it’s been a very rocky road. Every single member of the 31-strong squad has given absolutely everything in the pursuit of the team’s dream. Unfortunately, only 16 players and three reserves could be selected to represent the team at the Olympic Games. Dreams were made and shattered. Throughout the group of 31 young women there are many inspiring stories of triumph over tragedy, struggle and sacrifice. When the 16 stood on the podium, and were presented with a shiny gold medal, we stood with the other 15 in our hearts.
The two weeks of competition were incredibly hard, both physically and emotionally. The hockey tournament consisted of eight games: five pool games, a quarter-final, semi-final and, all being well, a final. All was well! We built momentum through the tournament by staying tight within our self-made bubble. No distractions from the outside world as we’d decided as a squad to come off social media for the duration of the Games. We stuck to well-worn, tried and tested routines. Our morning stretching routines and quick player chats started every day in the right way. We kept bringing it back to square one: do your job for the good of the team to the very best of your ability in each given moment.
I say square one but I think a circle would be a more appropriate shape for our team! I had started reading Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson, the legendary basketball coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, before the tournament got underway. He talks a lot about the significance and power of the circle in various cultures and situations. We always use circles every day at our training base at Bisham Abbey. We gather in a circle on the pitch, we talk in a circle in meetings and we huddle in a circle before and after we play.
The significance of the circle in Rio was profound for me. Obviously there are the Olympic Rings themselves, but for us as a squad the tightness of our unit and the reflection of our training environment and our competition behaviours were significant.
I have been so pleased that when I returned to social media people had really seen our culture and understood what we were about as a squad. We wanted to ‘Be the difference, Create history, and Inspire the future’. We have been striving for these things for ourselves, for the team and for the sport every single day we train. To see how this vision has bonded us, and to share that with the world, has been one of the proudest moments of my life.
To stand on the top of the Olympic podium, and say, ‘You are Olympic Champion’, is something I had dreamt about. I have wanted to sing that National Anthem with my team-mates loud and proud since I was a little girl. I have set myself off crying again!
We could not have done this without the support of fantastically professional and dedicated staff lead by Danny Kerry. Also our friends and family, many of whom travelled out to Rio to support us. Whether home or away, friends and family are the foundation from which we are built and we thank you.
Finally to everyone who has supported us, watched us, laughed and cried with us, I thank you. We went away hoping to represent you and make you proud. The welcome home has been surreal and quite awesome. Thank you.
Investec, the specialist bank and asset manager, support women’s hockey from grass roots level through to the national team – investec.co.uk/hockey or on Twitter @Investec_Sport
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Richardson-Walsh is an Olympic gold & bronze medallist. GB & England hockey player. And a patron of the Women’s Sport Trust. Kate’s latest articles
Sue Mott is an award-winning sport journalist who has worked on radio, TV and the written press. Sue’s latest articles