A video released by England Hockey in the build-up to Rio shows one of the Great Britain women’s team explaining how she remains at the top of the game. “I play on the edge, you need that fiery side.”
Team GB's Susannah Townsend is fast becoming one of Great Britain’s most effective midfielders. In the past she was known as a player who could be reckless – she admits she was often sent off, but now her energy and passion is firmly channelled into the game.
“I missed out on London 2012 and I have to admit I struggled emotionally. I told myself I never wanted to miss out on that opportunity again."
Despite a disappointing Hockey Champions Trophy (Great Britain finished fifth), Townsend is optimistic for her side’s chances in Rio.
She says the current squad is one that has been given time to evolve. “Since New Year we have had an intense training block, but this hasn't been any different to the last four years. The beauty of our programme is that we have had four years as a squad in the build up to an Olympics games, this means that time is on our side and nothing has had to be rushed. We have planned and prepared and are at a stage we want to be at prior to Rio.”
The stability in the Great Britain side is reflected in the fact that this will be coach Danny Kerry’s third Olympics in charge and the thoughtful and meticulously prepared coach has been signed up as women’s head coach until Tokyo 2020.
It is clearly an appointment that Townsend is delighted with. “Danny is a fantastic coach. As players we all look to develop every single day and Danny is meticulous in doing the same with his development. We are improving as players and our coaches are also improving as coaches. Stability at this time in preparation is a good thing and having this decision made early has benefited the squad as it avoids any speculation and also allows the coaches and players to focus on the task in hand, which is Rio.”
Talking to Townsend, you get the impression that this Great Britain side is a very tight knit unit. At the 2014 World Cup, England – who provide the majority of the Great Britain side – had an implosion. The sense among the players and staff is that this resulted in a very strong group of players emerging the other side of that painful period. Certainly Townsend feels she is part of a very tight knit group.
“After the New Year we had a physical training month, this was interspersed with hockey and physical training as well as team bonding exercises. This was a very tough month especially in the freezing cold, it is a month I will always remember though as tough times like that bring a team together!
“We also played six test matches in the freezing cold against Australia; this was invaluable. Playing against world class opposition and spending some quality time on and off the pitch as a squad proved to be a great experience for the team.
“We are a very close knit group. We spend every single day together and know each other inside out. I believe this sets us apart from many other teams. Our European success of course gave us belief and confidence but we had this before. We are very aware of what it takes to be successful and we live by those values each day. I can't give away our secrets on how we will be playing but it goes without saying that tactically we can set up in anyway but you can guarantee we will play with confidence, fight and determination.”
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