His fourth Olympic Games could be just around the corner, but Great Britain hockey captain Barry Middleton insists all eyes are on London over the coming weeks as the Champions Trophy comes to the capital.
The competition, on its second trip to British shores after the women’s event was held in Nottingham six years ago, features the world’s top-ranked teams in what is dubbed hockey’s world entertainment showpiece.
Taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the men’s tournament kicks off on Friday, with the women starting their campaign on June 18, providing the perfect warm up for Rio with less than 60 days to go.
And for Middleton, who captained Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the opportunity to play on home soil before the team flies to Brazil is a welcome boost.
“The Champions Trophy is a big tournament,” he said. “It’s tricky because obviously everyone has one eye on the Olympics but in terms of hockey in general, the Champions Trophy is massive for us.
“It’s usually one that is for the top six teams in the world, so the whole week is often tougher than an Olympics or World Cup can be.
“Every time we come back [to the Olympic Park] for any games or tournaments it’s really nice. I think that has shown over the last couple of years since London 2012 that we can do well here.
“The atmosphere is always really good and we enjoy playing here, so hopefully we can put on a good show for everyone.
“It definitely helps us having a home crowd behind us. We saw that at the European Championships last year when the momentum really built up, although it didn’t finish how we wanted.”
While the hockey team bound for Rio is yet to be named, Middleton, whose Holcombe side topped the domestic Men’s Hockey League this season, remains confident this could be the year his team medal for the first time since Seoul 1988.
And despite a plethora of experience on the world stage, Doncaster-born Middleton admits the buzz of competing at the Olympics is like nothing else he has experienced.
“For me, the Olympics is about winning things,” he said. “That isn’t necessarily the Olympic spirit, but for me this will be my fourth Games and I don’t have a medal to show for it.
“That is what this Games is about, and it’s about this team going there and achieving something we set out to do four years ago.
“When you’re at the Olympics, it is everything. It’s something you dream about, and when international hockey players talk, the conversation always comes back to the Olympics.
“All tournaments are big to us and we will always try to win them, but the Olympics is always the one that will stand out a little bit above everything else.”
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