Olympic gold medallist visits College

Olympic gold medallist visits College

By Romy Bodington (5th, A)

Hannah Macleod, a forward for the GB hockey team who recently won a gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and previously a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics, gave a coaching session to the Colts and Junior Colts as part of the pre-season training.

Mr Gwyn Williams commented, “This was a marvellous opportunity for our hockey players to learn from the experience of an Olympic gold medallist. What the women of GB Hockey achieved has been extraordinary. I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for our season than to have Hannah share her experiences and inspire our pupils.”

She was incredibly inspiring and taught us new skills and tricks to help our performance. After a few hours of her coaching, we all sat down to have a Q&A session to have an insight into her life as an athlete and what being at Rio was like in comparison to London.

I was fortunate enough to interview her afterward to find out some more about her background and her transition from London to Rio.

  • You said in the Q&A that you started playing at 13, were you always the best in your year group and clubs? Did you ever find it hard competing with people who have been playing for longer?

I started playing for St Ives after my PE teacher at school had said I had a talent for hockey. I started off playing with the boys’ team and then quickly progressed to the ladies’ side, but the next youngest person was about 18 or 19. I found this scary at first but in the end, it was very useful and I learnt a lot!

  • Why did you take up hockey in the first place?

I used to play football with my twin brother and older brother which made me more co-ordinated and gave me tough practice. When I was at primary school it wasn’t cool to play football with the boys so I had to find another team sport, as I was quite shy and hated individual sport. I was fast and very co-ordinated and hockey seemed to be the next best thing.

  • When did you decide that hockey is what you wanted to do and became a full-time player?

My full-time programme started in 2009. Before that it was camp formats where I played a week here and there, so preparing for an Olympics you would only come together for eight months and that wasn’t full time. For the rest of the year, you are either in an England A or B programme where everyone gets the chance to see what it’s like to be an international player. I lacked in self-confidence and found it hard to see what my coaches saw - up until 17 I was just playing for fun.

  • Was there a difference in the build up to Rio and London?

London was different because of the hype beforehand, plus we had only 3 years of full-time training before London so it was incredibly intense! It was a new full-time programme with a lot of pressure to win a medal so that GB Hockey did not lose their funding like the basketball and handball teams did. There was a lot more pressure before London leaving many broken athletes so we changed that in the build up to Rio and it was far more relaxed in terms of atmosphere but the training and nutrition did not change.

  • Has getting a gold in Rio changed your view on if you go to the next Olympics?

The team and our coach have until 26 September to decide what we want to do so we will use this time to relax and go and eat jam and scones, and enjoy ourselves! A lot of us had decided before the Olympics what we wanted to do but winning gold has really been a large factor in changing our minds. I wasn’t going to continue, I can't do another four years. You look at it in four-year blocks because it is an Olympic sport. You then question “Can I keep up that focus and intensity for another four years? Do I want to get a job and start looking at the next 20 years rather than the next four years?”. I will look at playing in the World Cup in London in two years time but no, not to the next Olympics.

  • What advice would you give to someone who’s aspiring to be what you’ve achieved?

Set your goal, hang it on the wall, and never lose site of it! I cannot tell you how many people will try and sway you away from that goal but deep only you will know if you are trying as hard as you can and whether your passion is still there.

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