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London 2012 Games

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Hannah McLeod

Loughborough graduate chases Olympic dream thanks to Linford

20 July 2012

Loughborough University graduate Hannah MacLeod will attempt to win a hockey gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics - thanks to sprinter Linford Christie.

Hannah was inspired to reach for the stars at the age of eight after watching Christie win gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

The 28-year-old, who graduated in Sport and Exercise Science, missed out on the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

But she will achieve her ambition after being named in a Team GB squad which includes Laura Unsworth and Nicola White, graduates from the university and Loughborough College respectively.

Hannah told the Leicester Mercury: "This is my first Olympics and everyone keeps telling me how big it is, but as far as I am concerned just to be involved is amazing.

"I was eight when I watched Linford Christie win gold in Barcelona. I looked at the television and thought 'I want to be part of that'.

"I don't know how an eight-year-old would think that by just looking at the television, but I did. Since then, I have been an absolute fan of the Olympics.

"I didn't go to Beijing but I was the most avid spectator and enthusiastic supporter, and watched absolutely everything.

"It was just a dream as I just didn't quite make it, but now it is absolutely unbelievable.

"I didn't pick up a hockey stick until I was 14 so I didn't care what sport it was, I just knew I wanted to be involved in an Olympics."

Hannah learned of her selection by email.

She said: "I was still up at 5am constantly refreshing my email, even though I knew it wouldn't be announced until 8am. I couldn't eat anything and was shaking. It was the worst anxiety you can feel.

"People have different emotions, but for me it was just relief. I knew I should be there. It is just an emotional nightmare.”

Hannah says she has sacrificed a lot to achieve her Olympic dream, moving away from her family and putting her career on hold to play hockey full-time.

She added: "Four years ago, I was just outside the training squad. I had been involved with England all the way up to the training squad and then was a reserve for Beijing.

“I was doing my PhD in exercise physiology at the time, so I didn't commit to hockey in the same way I do now.

"I have been full-time at hockey for the last three years. I have never used my qualification, after seven years of study, because three weeks later I was in full-time hockey. I picked up a contract and was invited down to Bisham Abbey to train and I haven't looked back since.

"The last three years have been incredible. Everyone who comes and joins us is just amazed how tight we are as a group and how much respect we have each other.

"That is because, since 2009, those who didn't want to commit left and the rest of us all have the understanding that a gold medal is a realistic target.

"They are the ones who have stuck it out. It is a huge commitment.

"I moved area to train and my team-mates became my family. We have left friends and family behind to do this. We all live like students in one house. But if you ask any of us they will say it is totally worth it. What is going on is absolute madness. I wouldn't change it for the world."

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