England and Great Britain's Susannah Townsend has been through some highs and lows in recent months. The joy of winning gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics was quickly superseded by the pain and frustration of a career-threatening injury. But now she is back and looking forward to a year of hockey that includes the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup London 2018. Susannah will be blogging fortnightly between now and the World Cup and invites you to join her on her journey.
It has been a bit of a journey for me since stepping off the pitch in Rio with an Olympic gold medal around my neck. Since I picked up a hockey stick at the age of 13 my dream was to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games so it was, and always will be, a surreal feeling knowing that particular dream has been achieved.
"We train for years to compete consistently at the highest level and we are constantly setting goals which we put all our efforts in to achieving. It’s what you do when you achieve them which has been the burning question in my head."
Susannah Townsend, England
However it left me feeling a little bit empty and I found myself asking the question of what next? In my mind all I knew was that I wanted to achieve it all again but it left me with a feeling that nothing will ever be enough. I suppose this is what makes a successful athlete as it leaves you wanting more and pushing yourself to get there.
We train for years to compete consistently at the highest level and we are constantly setting goals which we put all our efforts in to achieving. It’s what you do when you achieve them which has been the burning question in my head.
The answer I have come to is I and we want to achieve it all over again and that is what is now keeping me going every day.
After the highs of winning Olympic gold, I was on the operating table a month later undergoing knee surgery on my cartilage. That gave me some reflection time. To be specific, nine months of reflection time.
As strange as this may sound it gave me a chance to fill the void that I felt after returning from Rio. The one thing I was certain of during this time was that I wanted to be back playing the sport I loved. I simply missed running around a hockey pitch with my friends every day.
As much as I wouldn’t wish rehab on anyone I do think thing it teaches you a lot about yourself. I was someone that struggled to spend any time alone, I avoided any difficult conversation and I was a classic ‘yes’ girl.
I had to learn how to enjoy my own company and work on myself instead of constantly trying to please other people and rely on others to get me up for something.
This time in my life was invaluable and, as hard as it was, I see now as some of the most rewarding moments in my life. With the threat of not playing hockey again I realised how much I love what I do and that all the hard work is worth it. Yes, it is about winning medals and being successful but if you don’t enjoy the journey then I simply wouldn’t be doing it.
I am hoping 2018 is far more successful personally for me than 2017 and I am looking forward to what will be a very exciting year for hockey. With England we narrowly missed out on a gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 so we will be looking to do one better this time at Gold Coast.
With a home World Cup on the horizon this summer in London, it is where we all want to be. Not many athletes get to experience a home event and I certainly am working towards being on that selection email.
I am excited for what is to come. I am stronger and faster than I was before Rio and I would like to think I use my brain a little bit better. Which Helen Richardson-Walsh will be pleased to witness as I was a bit of a one-trick pony before.
I put a lot of emphasis on training my brain and psychologically preparing for how it feels to step out onto the pitch. I see this as something that will put me in a great position if selected this summer.
You can guarantee that I will be doing it with a smile on my face and the occasional on-pitch joke with Laura Unsworth, and a few reverse stick crosses to my room-mate Sophie Bray.
TICKETS: Tickets for some matches at the Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup London 2018 are still available.