Rio 2016 Medal Moments: Women's Hockey
Hockey

Rio 2016 Medal Moments: Women's Hockey

27 October 2016 / 07:00

The BBC moved the 10 o’clock news. Nine million people up and down the country turned on the TV. Pub-goers put down their pints and switched over from the football. And thousands were inspired.

Because one night in particular of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will live long in the memory of the British public, sporting superfans or not – the night the Team GB women’s hockey team defeated the Netherlands to win gold.

The build-up was immense. In qualifying for the final, with a 100 per cent win record in Rio under their belts, the team became the first ever GB women’s hockey outfit to reach an Olympic final.

Silver was never an option for our girls. After taking the lead through Lily Owsley, Team GB were ready for battle, but went into half-time 2-1 down.

But confidence never faltered, and with fire in their bellies and determination in their eyes, Team GB fought back, with goals from Crista Cullen and Nicola White sandwiching another Dutch goal to take the score to 3-3 at full-time. 

And that, according to many of our golden girls, was the moment the game was won. With Maddie Hinch between the sticks, there was never a shred of doubt that the gold medals wouldn’t be around British necks after the ensuing penalty shootout.

The hero of last year’s European title win – once again, a penalty shootout victory over the Dutch – Hinch was an impenetrable wall in Rio, and, thanks to goals from Helen Richardson-Walsh and Hollie Webb, Team GB were crowned Olympic champions for the first time in their history.

“It’s still a complete blur, I’ve watched a few highlights of the game but I’m yet to watch the whole thing back, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, saying or doing!” said Hinch.

“It was just absolute madness and didn’t feel real, I felt like I was going to wake up the next morning and be in the gym, doing my recovery and then going back out to play.

“We had been in such a bubble for three weeks, doing the same kind of thing every day, but finally it was over and we had achieved what we set out to do.

“Hollie’s [Webb] celebration is the moment that I think stands out for me from Rio. She scored the winner and she just didn’t have a clue what to do, so she just started jumping around like a lunatic.

“I remember the evening afterwards, we got to celebrate as a team with our families and friends, and to get to spend that time with them and see how proud they were, that for me was the moment that I realised what had happened and the magnitude of our achievement.”

The squad of 19 in Rio was a mixture of experience, from Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, who made their Olympic debuts at Sydney 2000, to Owsley, the baby of the team at just 21 years old.

The country’s most capped hockey player, Kate, who was named Team GB’s Closing Ceremony flagbearer, has already announced her retirement from the international game, while wife Helen is yet to make a decision, but Hinch was quick to pay tribute to their long service to the game.

“Standing on the podium was an unbelievable moment. For some of those girls, in particular Kate and Helen [Richardson-Walsh], this was their fourth Games, so I’m very fortunate to have come in and nailed it on the first attempt!” she laughed.

“They have worked so hard and have had so many knockbacks over the years, so to see on their faces how much it meant to them, was massive, and now they can both go and enjoy themselves knowing they have achieved what they wanted to.”

Since that unforgettable evening in Rio, thousands of people, young and old, have taken up the sport in their droves, and the sport’s popularity has gone through the roof.

Prior to the Games, the hockey team’s mantra was ‘Be the difference. Create history. Inspire the future’ - it’s fair to say they ticked off all three, and then some.

Sportsbeat 2016