Laura Unsworth brings home a bronze
28 September 2012
If someone had told 18 year old Laura Unsworth that in six years’ time she would be at Loughborough University being kitted out for the London 2012 Olympics she would have just “laughed at them”.
Arriving as a fresher looking forward to studying Accounting and Finance Management, Laura had already made her international debut in the England junior hockey squad by the time she had arrived at Loughborough in 2006.
Six years later, Laura was trying on the iconic Team GB kit to take her place in the extremely promising women’s hockey squad of London 2012.
For Laura, to play in the Olympic hockey team is the “greatest achievement that any hockey player can ever do” and Laura felt an “overwhelming honour” to be part of it.
Having relocated in 2009 to Bisham Abbey, the permanent base for Great Britain’s hockey programme, Laura put her degree on hold for a couple of years.
This meant she was fully focused on the Olympics for some time along with two other former Loughborough women’s hockey club players Hannah McLeod and Nicola White. It was all worth it as they came home with the bronze medal.
Having not medalled in the event for 20 years it was fitting that Laura followed in the footsteps of Loughborough University lecturer, Dr Mary Nevill, who captained the last GB team to medal in hockey at the Barcelona Olympics back in 1992.
Laura still finds it all a bit surreal that it has actually happened. “I have to keep pinching myself just to make sure it wasn’t just a dream that I was living in, it was an incredible experience. And it was made more special that it was in London. The home crowd that came and the support we got were phenomenal.”
“When they announced ‘Team GB’ the whole crowd would just start to cheer and roar and I would get goose bumps every single time when walking out. The crowd were actually amazing. In hockey you go through ups and down during matches where you are and aren’t playing so well and during those times crowd really lifted us and got behind us and supported us. We’ve got to thank them for that bronze medal as much as we won it as well.”
“I can see why people would start crying and get all emotional because the last three years have been so hard and the training has been intense but just standing on that podium have made all the training and all the hard sessions worth it.”
In Laura’s first year at the university, the women’s hockey club were not a performance sport and training consisted of two sessions a week and one match. However the following year, through employment of Jerome Goudie as women’s hockey coach, there was a big change. Training dramatically increased, including 7am gym sessions which weren’t fully to Laura’s taste, but this is all helped for her move to Bisham Abbey in 2009 in preparation for London 2012.
Laura attributes her success to the university’s fantastic facilities, which includes the actual Olympic hockey pitch, and access to physios and strength and conditioning coaches.
“The hockey became more elite so we had gym sessions twice a week in the mornings. We had group training, then we had individual sessions. This all helped me to get used to the Great British team schedule.”
Loughborough Women’s hockey head coach, Jerome Goudie expanded on the importance of these changes being pinnacle to the success of the players when he said:
“We were able to develop a full time programme. We aimed to bridge the gap between the junior under 18’s and under 21’s set up to be able to make the transition into the senior international folds within the first year. The girls who have made it have fitted in to the international training well because of the basis of what we’ve done in the previous years here at Loughborough.”
Speaking of Laura’s involvement in the programme, he states “She went fully on board with it and from there she was completely committed to try and be the best hockey player that she could be.”
The transition of this was eased by the good relationship she has developed with the School of Business and Economics in her time here. One of the reasons she chose Loughborough was because “you are able to combine your studies with sport here and the university helps you with that.” She wants to thank the university and the business school for the support they have given her in helping her to achieve her dreams.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more from the business school, they were great. Especially my personal tutor, Ruth King, Programme Director of the Accounting and Financial programme”
I didn’t want to do hockey half-heartedly and I didn’t want to do my degree half-heartedly either I just wanted to put everything into hockey and then everything into my degree.”
Having taken a break from her studies Laura is back at the university this year to complete her degree.
“I’m actually looking forward to coming back and just being a student. It’s another challenge that I thrive on.”
After finishing her degree, Laura will be looking forward to Rio 2016 by relocating to Bisham Abbey again. The idea of Laura representing Team GB again at Rio 2016 is certainly not laughable at all. This humble yet determined and extremely positive sports woman makes it a cert that she will be there.