Following the Four Nations Tournament we jumped on the bus across to Rosario for a week of training and Tournament preparation. It’s important when you are on such a long trip to ensure that you feel fresh and raring to go at the start of the tournament. Gym sessions, training sessions and getting out and about was key in the week prior to the Champions Trophy. For me, this was a week of reflection on the four nations and using this time to the best I could, whether that is recovery, video analysis or physio to make sure I was as best prepared for opening game against Japan.
Our pool consisted of the Japanese, the Dutch and the Chinese with the other pool containing the hosts, the Germans, the Koreans and the Kiwis. No matter which pool you were in this tournament is always very tough with the top 8 nations in the World competing.
A 3-0 win is always a great way to start any tournament, let alone one of this calibre. Next was going to be a very tough encounter with one of our rivals Holland. We went into the half time break 2-0 down, a performance that lacked elements of belief; however we had 35 minutes to put it right. Even in the heat, the GB Team found it within themselves to fight with everything they had. Some class forward play won us some penalty corners which we were able to convert from. We won the second half 2-0 and I was so proud to be British and play amongst this team.
There is no getting away from the fact that penalty strokes are part and parcel of the challenges that one needs to face and on two occasions during this game, we were awarded and rightfully so the opportunity for them. I stepped up to take the second one, emotional as it was at this point in the game still being 2-1 down, your sole focus is to channel the pressure as best you can. On my stroke being saved, I resorted to self-talk to ensure that I didn’t let my team down as I still believed that we could beat the Dutch.
The last team we met in our pool was China, Beijing Silver Medallists and a forward unit that have over 400 caps between them. Getting a goal up early on in the first half was good to settle the team and a very professional performance followed. It was a nice change to see the clouds roll in and not be playing in the searing heat; this of course suited us Brits well resulting in finishing second in our pool with a 3-1 win.
The way the tournament worked was you had to win your crossover pool match (quarter final) in order to progress otherwise you found yourself in the 5th to 8th playoff. The Dutch having beaten us on goal difference in our pool went through on top and we found ourselves playing the Koreans (having lost in the Four Nations final to them).
We started this game the strongest we had started any game and at no stage did I not think that we would beat them. Some clinical finishing from Alex Danson, Georgie Twigg and Helen Richardson enabled us to progress in our quest for a Gold Medal. The semi-final would be against the Germans, recent history illustrated that we had the psychological advantage but this means nothing especially being a semi-final.
At the start of the semi, Natasha Keller was awarded 400 caps (the most capped woman ever in the world of hockey). Knowing that she potentially was a game changer for Germany, it was important to make sure she was covered. Also Chloe Rogers was awarded her 50th Great Britain cap and this was definitely one to be remembered. Great Britain commanded the game from the off, and considering the semi-finals we had played in the past, we were confident and determined to get our rightful place in the final. A great trap and conversion by Sarah Thomas and an Ashleigh Ball tap in (not that she knew much about it!!) made us progress to face the hosts.
Argentina in Argentina for a Champions Trophy Gold Medal – what a way to get the adrenaline pumping. The atmosphere was about 10 times more electric than what we had experienced in Cordoba.
A gritty and determined performance was to follow by Great Britain, a never die attitude and a commitment to each other made us fight to the end. The Argentinians had a string of penalty corners where Beth Storry made outstanding saves. Unfortunately, they were able to convert one which ended up being the difference much to our disappointment. The second half performance was end to end with every Brit giving everything they had left but to no avail. The Silver Medal was what we came away with, and with that dogged determination to train harder in search of that Gold Medal.
A home advantage has proved to us that it can be an extra man on the field. This was demonstrated with qualification for the Beijing Olympics with a Bronze Medal in Manchester 2007 and receiving a Bronze Medal at the Champs Trophy in Nottingham in 2010. This shows that in a 3rd/4th playoff where there was only one medal to fight for, the home advantage carried us. Doesn’t this make the London 2012 Olympics even more exciting?