England and Great Britain Hockey goalkeeper Harry Gibson gave up on football as a youngster to pursue a career in hockey and achieve Olympic gold.
“I’m just aiming to be the best goalkeeper I can be, and then hopefully I can be the best goalkeeper in the world"
Student Gibson has Rio and Tokyo in his sights
Harry Gibson is a young hockey player with a lot of talent. Since enrolling on an International Business degree at Loughborough University, the hockey goalkeeper has been on a steep upward curve.
Swapping his home in Exeter for the East Midlands in 2011, the former footballer was still inexperienced in hockey terms, but as ever, he quickly stepped up to the challenge.
“I joined Loughborough in 2011 but didn’t make the first team straight away, as we had Ali McGregor in goal, who is a phenomenal keeper and was in great form after the Beijing Olympics. Training with him was great and half way through that first season I started to break into the team and also got into the England U21 squad.
“One of the big things for me about joining Loughborough was that the players and coaches had so much experience, and coming out of the U18 ranks I’d never really had this before. Joining a setup with Olympians and professional players, and looking up to the likes of Henry Weir and David Condon who went on to be centralised before me, I learnt to be more professional and it inspired me to work even harder.”
BUCS titles and man of the match performances followed, as Gibson transferred what he’d learnt as a football goalkeeper at Exeter City onto the hockey pitch. All the while, he was ensuring he didn’t concede any own goals when it came to studying.
“Loughborough have been brilliant in supporting me to play hockey at a high level whilst also completing my degree in International Business. I split my second year over two years because I was away for quite a while playing at the Youth Olympics and the Junior World Cup. I was then contracted onto the centralised programme down here at Bisham Abbey and so have been studying from distance for the last two years to complete my degree.”
With graduation on the horizon, Gibson has been able to benefit from the services offered by the Loughborough Sport support team, signing a professional contract with England Hockey and completing his degree from afar.
“Being a professional hockey player is amazing – it’s what you work for and it’s what you want to do. Being able to dedicate yourself to being the best you can be is really rewarding.”
Based at Bisham Abbey, just west of London, Gibson trains full-time with the best players in England, as he strives to be the best goalkeeper he can possibly be.
“As a goalkeeper, a lot of the time it’s make or break. There’s a certain psychology that comes with being a goalkeeper. You have to have a certain outer shell, as if you let a goal in you can’t let it affect you or be seen to affect you. I get very much into the heat of the game when the mask is on, however doing it every day in training I get pretty used to it. I’m definitely a different person to when I’m relaxing with friends and family though!
“I train to make things autonomous. It might sound counter intuitive, but in a game I don’t want to be thinking about anything at all. It’s all about focusing on what you do well and staying solid – I’ve just got to keep the ball out of the net! Having said that, when you have a big guy smashing the ball at you from five yards it can be a little bit unnerving!”
With Rio just around the corner and Tokyo only four years away, the 23 year old has a bright future ahead, with plenty to aim for. However it’s what he does day in, day out that’ll help him achieve his dreams.
“I try not to look too far ahead, but I’ll be peak age for Tokyo 2020. We’ve got a decent number of young players coming through, and I’ve no doubt that after Rio we’ll rejig the squad a little bit and I think we could go to Tokyo as favourites. Whether I’ll play after that, we’ll see, but for now I’m just aiming to be the best goalkeeper I can be and then hopefully I can be the best goalkeeper in the world.”
Follow Harry on his road from Loughborough to Rio here: @HarryJayGibson