Pull of Paris 2024 proving tough to ignore for hockey legend Unsworth

Britain’s greatest-ever hockey Olympian isn’t done just yet.

‘Only two years away’ is becoming a familiar refrain for athletes plotting their path to Paris 2024 and Laura Unsworth is warming to the prospect of a fourth Games.

The 34-year-old has reinvented herself once more to fit into David Ralph’s ambitious new style and will be one of the pillars of a young England side at this World Cup.

Paris is a mere hop over the water and Unsworth sounds more confident than ever of another Team GB chapter.

“Paris is always there in the back of my head,” she said.

“When you're in this environment, you always want to be in. This is the best - it's not really a job - it's the best hobby you can do.

“I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to do this and you don't want it to ever end. So Paris is obviously there in the back of my head, albeit I'm not getting any younger.

“It’s just about how well I can keep my body going and keep improving. And if that's the case, then I'd like to think that I can give Paris a good shot.”

A serial winner, Unsworth was pivotal to bronze on home soil at London 2012, an unforgettable gold medal at Rio 2016 backed up with another bronze in Tokyo.

“Time hasn’t really changed the way I train or play,” she reflects. “I’d say I look after my body a little bit better now, recovery is very key.

“Covid was definitely a blessing in disguise and that has prolonged my career.

“Positionally I’ve changed, played in different positions, and now with David Ralph coming in as coach, he’s changed the way we play and I’ve had to change with it.

“It’s keeping me on my toes, which I quite like.”

12 members of the Team GB squad that beat India to Olympic bronze last summer will line up in the World Cup, starting with a clash against the same opposition on Sunday.

The event is shared between Amstelveen’s Wagener Stadium, one of the sport’s traditional centres, and Terrassa, Spain, the hockey venue for Barcelona 1992.

It seems England won’t die trying when it comes to chasing a second medal at the event, with their first coming with third place in 2010.

“David’s philosophy is more attacking than any England or Great Britain teams have ever played,” she said.

“We’ve always been one of the best defensive teams in the world and that has been the focus but now we’re adding this attacking threat

“For me, it’s about playing with the mentality of ‘I’m just going to go for it’ rather than be cautious and be safe. Let’s be brave and take on something.

“The game of hockey is changing and we need to change our game to stay in contention and compete for the medals.

“You always wanted to be the front-runners tactically and for example in a way of pressing, you want people to be saying 'we would like to press like the English.”

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