In the Spotlight is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. The Great Britain women are the 23rd team to be featured in the series.
First, a quick history lesson for those outside the United Kingdom, who might be confused as to what exactly a Great Britain squad is: The Great Britain hockey teams exist solely to compete at the Olympics. Great Britain can compete at world level events such as the Champions Trophy 12 months before the Olympics and the rest of the time the athletes play separately with England, Scotland and Wales. With that being said, England will be the base of reference for this article. The English women’s team is the #4 team in the FIH World Ranking. England’s last major FIH event was the Champions Trophy in 2011, where they finished fifth. Last season, the team came together as Great Britain and fared much better at the 2012 edition of the Champions Trophy, earning its first-ever medal, a silver. On the Olympic stage, Great Britain is in its sixth Games and has earned one medal, a bronze in 1992.
The Road to London:
The Road to London is particularly short when the city is in your backyard. Great Britain was automatically qualified for the Games as the host.
Players to Watch:
Midfielder Helen Richardson has seen Great Britain through its renaissance, and along with defender and captain Kate Walsh, is the heart and soul of the British team. The duo, just one year apart in age, are the only players to top 200 caps, with Walsh leading the way with 287. Alex Danson and Crista Cullen pack the scoring punch for Great Britain. The duo has scored 50 and 51 goals, respectively. Danson is a dynamic forward, while Cullen leads the defense and is the star penalty flicker. Finally in net, Great Britain has the skills of Beth Storry, who is considered one of the top goalkeepers in the games and was named the Best Goalkeeper at the 2010 Champions Trophy and World Cup..
Danny Kerry is at the helm of the women’s Great Britain and England teams and since he started in 2004, the program has stepped up its game. Kerry has consistently gotten Great Britain on the podium, but so far gold has proven to be elusive for the coach. Despite the lack of gold, the hardware haul under his leadership is impressive and includes a 2010 World Cup bronze, bronze for England at the 2010 Champions Trophy and the highest-ever CT finish for Great Britain, a silver, two years later. England has also earned four bronze medals at the European Championships and an additional two bronze medals at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Without a doubt Great Britain is riding a wave of momentum. Every event, the team looks stronger and finishes higher in the standings. Great Britain also has an incredible work ethic and plays with a ‘never say die’ mentality. The team also has had the luxury of not having to travel far from home in the lead-up to the games as all the other squads have come to them to get a sneak peek at the blue pitch. This will give the team an early edge in terms of being well-rested and ready for battle.
Like being a hostess of party, there’s not much time to sit back and enjoy. Without a doubt, the Great Britain is going to be stretched thin by massive media attention and requests for their time. It will be up to a strong staff around the team to minimize the distraction and the immense pressure -- a medal finish is the expectation -- and allow the squad to focus only on the 70 minutes that awaits them in each outing.
If their form in the last handful of major international outings is any indication, Great Britain won’t be going home empty handed, although, if the past is any an indicator, Great Britain won’t be going home with the gold either. History is on the side of Great Britain, in all but two women’s Olympic hockey tournaments, the host nation has earned a medal (Athens and Atlanta were the only times that the host nation fell short, and there was no entry from Greece in Athens.)
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