Women show resilience to win hockey bronze
August 12, 2012 13:17 pm
Great Britain's women outperformed their male counterparts at the Olympics for the first time in 16 years as they won only the second bronze medal in their history.
The men narrowly missed out on the podium, losing 3-1 to world number ones Australia in the third-place play-off. But the women went from despair to joy within the space of 48 hours as they beat surprise package New Zealand to win bronze, matching the feat of the 1992 Barcelona medallists.
Both teams had ambitions of winning gold and that remained a realistic option up until their penultimate matches of the competition.
Danny Kerry's women's squad - captained by Kate Walsh who fractured her jaw in the opening match but returned to play after an operation to insert a plate - were devastated, losing their semi-final to world champions and number two-ranked side Argentina 2-1.
Players were in floods of tears as they left the pitch and the concern was they would not be able to lift themselves less than two days later but they bounced back to see off the Kiwis 3-1.
"It is a hard thing losing a semi-final and it wasn't easy to overcome those emotions but we still had something to fight for," Leicester defender Crista Cullen said.
"We want this to be a legacy. We want it to encourage more people to play hockey."
Reading forward Alex Danson, who with Cullen finished the tournament's top scorer with five goals, said the players refused to accept exiting the tournament empty-handed.
"We gave everything. The bronze became our gold and we wouldn't come away with anything less," she added.
The women cruised through their first three pool matches, winning against Japan (4-0), South Korea (5-3) and Belgium (3-0) before defeat to China when they needed only a point to qualify left them having to get a draw against defending champions - and eventual winners - Holland.
Fortunately, however, that requirement was removed when Japan beat China hours before the clash with the Dutch - which was a huge result as GB went on to lose against Holland.
It was the men's result against the Dutch, this time in the semi-finals, which proved to be their crunch moment.
In a crazily-open encounter they found themselves, somewhat harshly, 4-1 down at half-time and they came out after the break chasing a famous comeback spurred on by a 16-strong crowd.
But the Dutch clinically scored four goals in eight minutes and finish 9-2 winners.
That set up a bronze medal match with Australia and although the hosts played well the Kookaburras had the edge at either ends of the pitch, winning 3-1.
"We had a bad taste in our mouth about the semi-final result and wanted to go into the bronze medal game and play like ourselves," said Lee.
"That is total commitment, trying to play attacking hockey, and I think the guys did it."
In the pool GB had beaten Argentina and Pakistan well and drew against South Africa, Australia - thrillingly coming back from 3-0 down with 23 minutes to go - and Spain.
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