Loughborough hockey star thanks GB coach for Olympic chance
18 July 2012
Loughborough University’s Richard Smith has revealed that Great Britain coach Jason Lee helped him achieve his Olympic dream by asking him to change position.
Richard says Jason, a Loughborough graduate and former Loughborough player and coach, asked him to switch from midfield to central defence three years ago, a move which ended with his selection for the 16-strong GB team for the London 2012 Olympics.
Richard, 24, one of seven players with Loughborough links in the squad, said: “In January 2009, Jason came to Loughborough and said he was thinking about playing me in central defence, which I had not done before.
“So I played about seven games in central defence before my first cap against Germany.
“He has been integral in deciding to play me there and get me involved. And, in the last three years, in the way we have gone about everything, he has helped me to be a good defender.
“The way Jason wanted central defenders to go was to be more comfortable on the ball, or on the move, which wasn’t really the case before. I had a bit of that background, going into playing in defence.”
Richard says he hopes the Olympics will inspire young people to get involved in sport, and particularly hockey, which last received a shot in the arm in terms of its profile in 1988 when Sean Kerly helped GB to win gold in Seoul.
“It’s the biggest thing I have done on the sporting front,” said Richard, who has just completed his Masters in Business Analysis and Management .
“It’s the same 12 teams from the World Cup, but it’s the fact that the Olympics includes all the other sports and it’s in this country in front of so many people. Hopefully it will inspire a lot of people.”
Richard said the excitement started to build when he and his team mates went to the kitting-out day at the Team GB Loughborough Preparation Camp.
He said: “It’s really exciting and it’s only now I’ve started to think about the competition. When we get into the Olympic Village we will really focus on what is ahead.
“Butterflies? Not too many. We have put in so much work and preparation in that it’s a case of focusing on that.
“I imagine when we walk out for the first game there will be a bit of that but, hopefully, we will be able to put that to one side and get on with it.
“Preparation has been meticulous thanks to Jason. There have been some encouraging signs in the last few weeks as we start to, hopefully, peak in time.”
Richard said the week they are spending in Spain was vital to their preparations and Great Britain played well in two games, beating India 3-1 last Saturday in Santander and Spain 2-1.
The win over Spain, who are ranked fifth in the world and tend to cause Great Britain (4th) more problems than most teams, was a morale booster ahead of what could be a crunch final game in Group A.
The world number one team Australia are also in Great Britain’s group and Richard says they are worthy favourites.
He said: “All the teams in the other pool are close in terms of standard in that everyone can beat everyone, although Germany are slightly ahead
“In ours we have Australia who are the stand-out team, and then there’s more of a separation between the others.
“Australia won the World Cup in 2010 and after the last few Champions Trophies they are definitely the team to beat.
“The way they play is so aggressive that they have had the better of most teams in the last few years.
“Germany are getting close to them and beat them in the final of the test event, but Australia will be considered favourites.
“They are all tough matches so it’s going to be an exciting tournament.
“If we do ourselves justice, as we hope to do, we will definitely be in the medal games. We feel like we are in a good position to push for a medal.”
The other players in the squad with Loughborough links are Glenn Kirkham, Nicholas Catlin, Iain Lewers, Iain Mackay, Barry Middleton, the captain, and Alastair Wilson.