Hockey may not have been her first love but as Hannah Macleod takes another major step on the Road to Rio at this week’s World League Final in Rosario, she insists success with national squads is what drives her on.
As a teenager, forward Macleod would have been more likely to be found with a football at her feet rather than a hockey stick in hand.
A Manchester United fan growing up on the likes of Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs, it was only when she was denied the chance to play football at school that she turned to the sport of hockey.
But football’s loss was hockey’s gain, as the Boston-born player has gone on to accrue 88 combined caps for England and Great Britain – not to mention an Olympic bronze medal – since making her debut back as a 19-year-old in 2003.
And, while women’s football may be bigger than ever in the country following England’s bronze medal at the World Cup earlier this year, Macleod does not have any regrets.
“I used to really enjoy football when I was younger, I have to admit that I was a bit of a glory supporter and was drawn in by the likes of Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs,” she said.
“But unfortunately for me, in our school you weren’t allowed to play it. My PE teacher encouraged me to try hockey instead and it went from there.
“Women’s football has got a lot more popular recently and you can see that with their domestic league.
“Saying that though, I wouldn’t swap hockey for anything. There is nothing more special than an Olympic Games, it’s a whole four year cycle which you spend your time building towards and working hard towards.”
Macleod was a member of the squad which secured bronze in front of their home fans in London three years ago with the team currently looking good to improve on that following a successful 2015.
Olympic qualification was secured with an unbeaten run at the Hockey World League Semi Final in May while in August they claimed gold at the EuroHockey Championships in London.
It is quite a turnaround from 2014 where England recorded their worst ever World Cup finish when they placed 11th – a result Macleod believes was a watershed moment.
She added: “2014 was horrible. We had the worst World Cup finish in our history.
“We had a good look at ourselves, there were some changes made externally and then a lot of it was reflecting on what we had been doing well and making sure we were getting back to that and the processes that won us a bronze in London at the Olympics.
“When you perform so badly it gives you the chance to stop and reflect. In hindsight it was a bit of a blessing in disguise as you can see how we’ve pulled together this year.”
There is still the chance to end the year on another high with Great Britain one of eight teams who will battle it out at the World League Final in Rosario this coming week.
They begin their campaign against hosts Argentina at midnight on Saturday and Macleod admits the squad will have one thought already on Brazil.
“It’s a bit chance for players to prove themselves on an international stage going into Rio,” she said.
“It’s a chance to show everyone, the world, what we are about.
“We have 31 players and there are 16 who will go to the Olympics. It’s very very competitive in a team sport.
“And it’s not necessarily the best 16 that go, it’s the best potential team. There will always be a player that misses out, someone who is absolutely fantastic but the team comes first.
“We talk logistics around Rio, for example about the bus journey from the accommodation to the venue, the music we might want to play on the bus, the different processes but we don’t tend to talk about specific selection.
“It’s a high pressured environment but it’s one where everyone has to be moving forward.”
© Sportsbeat 2015