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Richard Smith in action

Richard Smith thanks Loughborough University after Olympic selection

28 June 2012

Hockey star Richard Smith has paid tribute to Loughborough University for the ‘huge’ role they have played in helping him achieve his Olympic ambition.

Richard, 24, has been named in the 16-strong Great Britain hockey team and he says without the help and support of people at the university he would not have made it.

Richard was allowed to stretch a one year Masters to three so he could train properly for the Olympics and also received a scholarship which helped financially.

In addition, he was helped by the university hockey coaches, David Ralph and Jon Bleby.

Richard, an MSc Business Analysis and Management student, said: “Their role has been absolutely huge and I wouldn’t be part of the team if it wasn’t for what they have given me.

“From the start I was close to a hockey pitch to train and then there is the coaching David and Jon have given me.

“On the academic side they have been so understanding, letting me stretch my Masters degree so I could train at Bisham Abbey.

“And the 2012 scholarship that I have been lucky to have for the last four years has meant that, financially, I have been able to travel and have the lifestyle required to give it my best shot. It has been integral to me getting in the team.”

Richard said he was excited about his selection, not least because at the end of last year he feared for his place.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted and excited.

“I had a dip in form and confidence at the end of last year but I didn’t get too het up about it and, since the turn of the new year, there have been encouraging signs that things are going in the right direction.

“It means a lot to be part of what is going to be a fantastic celebration of sport.

“In hockey terms, it’s similar to the World Cup but the fact that it’s combined with so many other sports, all trying to be at their peak, and that’s it’s captured the interest of so many people, means it’s special to be a part of it.

“I am just really excited and I hope I can contribute to it as much as possible.”

The players were told they could hear of their selection either via text, email, or in a face to face meeting with the coaches. He chose the latter. “I was just thankful and pleased,” he said. “It was a short and sweet meeting.”

Celebration was a quiet dinner and, despite all the excitement, he says he slept well.

He will hope that continues as Great Britain, who have moved up fourth in the world from 11th since the Games were announced in 2005, take on the world’s best, including the much fancied Australia and Germany.

They finished fifth in Beijing, just missing out on the semi-finals, and Richard feels they will do well this time.

He said: “We have had an encouraging few years results wise.

“We are now fourth in the world and are consistently playing to a standard that competes with every team in the world.

“We look at each team we play and say ‘if we played them 10 times how many times would we win?’.

“At the moment Australia and Germany are slightly edging us but we can beat these teams, and with the other teams we would like to think we were equal if not better.

“It’s encouraging but it’s very competitive and the 12 teams there are really good. We feel like we have got the ability to get a medal, but it’s going to be extremely tight.”

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