20 Aug 2016
Five Loughborough alumnae win Britain’s first ever women’s hockey gold
Giselle Ansley, Maddie Hinch, Hannah MacLeod, Laura Unsworth and Nicola White made history on Friday night as part of the first ever female British hockey team to win Olympic gold.
Just making the final was something a Team GB side have never done before, but a valiant performance saw them come from behind twice to clinch gold.
Taking the lead in the first quarter, Team GB looked to continue the unbeaten run that had got them to the final, but after a period of heavy Dutch pressure in the second quarter the side trailed 2-1. However within minutes they showed the character and fight that had got them so far over the last two weeks, finding an equaliser against the run of play.
It was more of the same in the second half, with The Netherlands boasting much more of the possession and the superior chances and they eventually took the lead once more. But Team GB hadn’t give up and in the final quarter won their first penalty corner of the match. The first was turned behind, but the second gave Giselle Ansley another sight of goal, her shot turned in by fellow Loughborough alumna Nicola White.
With just minutes left on the clock neither side were prepared to take any risks, and so penalties loomed. Maddie Hinch, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, is well known for her penalty saving ability, which comes from meticulous research of the opposition.
Once again it looked like she had done her homework, saving every single penalty shuffle, allowing Team GB to run out 2-0 winners and kick-start their own Brazilian party.
Post-match, penalty shootout hero Maddie Hinch said:
“That was a huge team effort. The Dutch are a fantastic side. We definitely back ourselves in the shootout. Goalkeeping has its highs and lows. You can be a villain, but you can also be a hero in the moment.
“It helped that the Dutch had a shootout in their semi-final, so that gave me a chance to see what they do, but I basically give myself a game plan for each player and I execute that and it worked. Thankfully the Dutch did what I thought they would do.
“3-3, what a great advert for hockey. That’s what we want to do, showcase our sport and I’m so pleased it was a good game.”
Nicola White added:
“This is what we dreamed of and now we’ve got it. No-one can ever take that away from us. We’ve now gone unbeaten through an Olympic tournament, which is unreal. It’s the first time we’ve been to the final, so for us we’re over the moon. We always knew it was going to be very close but physically we stuck to it. We really put the legwork in to try and get them on the counter and get up the pitch.”
After receiving her Olympic gold medal Hannah MacLeod said:
“I don't know whether to laugh or cry! It’s just surreal! It’s believable because our culture, team spirit and respect for each other – we know how special it is and now everyone else can see that.”
A special mention must also go to Head Coach Danny Kerry, another Loughborough alumnus who has done a terrific job to guide his side to their nation’s first ever gold.
“We know we’re good at shootouts. We have some tough competitors and probably the best goalie in the world in shootouts. As soon as it went there I knew we would win.
“Today we had to defend, we had to dig trenches, but we changed things in the last quarter and it paid off.
“Eight of the group are multiple Olympians and we needed that experience today.”
Asha Philip ran a brilliant first leg as Team GB claimed bronze in the women’s 4x100m sprint relay, their first medal in that event for 32 years. The Loughborough based athlete was the oldest in the team at just 25 years of age, showing how much promise they have. What’s more, the quartet that also included Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita, broke the British record with their 41.77 run.
Of the achievement Asha Philip said:
“It has been amazing it has been a long journey for us and we have come a long way as a team with the help of the National Lottery, our coaches, our friends and family. They have put so much support into us and they made us believe that we could do it. Those girls are extremely fast but we can only get faster. Congrats to these girls because they are amazing.”
Loughborough University graudate Louise Bloor was also part of the sprint relay squad but didn’t run.
After winning silver yesterday alongside his fellow Loughborough graduate Jon Schofield, Liam Heath returned to the water to contest the individual K1 200m canoe sprint.
There was no hangover effect having achieved the biggest high of his career the day before, as Heath notched up straight victories in his heat and semi-final to book his place in Saturday’s final.
Qualifying fastest in 34.07, the Briton will be looking to complete his Olympic medal collection with gold at 13:07 BST on 20th August.
“The conditions changed between the heats and semis so there was a stronger tailwind, which is great for pushing you down the race but also picks the water up so it makes it quite a rough ride. There’s a greater surface area on the boat which creates more drag.
“But it was a solid performance again. I’m really happy with both today. I kept calm and pushed it out towards the line.
“When you come to an Olympic Games, every semi and heat is hard. You’ve got all the best in the world here, all competing for the same thing. They’ve all been training for four years for this moment so there’s no easy heat. You’ve just got to go out and focus on what you’ve been doing and then deliver.
“I’d say there is a little bit less pressure now [after winning K2 silver yesterday]. I
know I’m going really well and the K2 has been feeling absolutely fantastic so to have mine and Jonny’s [Schofield] work justified and step up from the last Games is absolutely incredible.”
Back on the track, former Loughborough student Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Lougborough based Adam Gemili combined to help the men’s 4x100m relay team to a fifth place finishing. Running from an almost impossible lane one, the team ran an impressive 37.98 but couldn’t quite get in the shake-up for the medals.
Harry Aikines-Aryeetey said:
“We gave it our all but it’s disappointing, obviously, as we put a lot of work into this and this means a lot to us. We’ve come together as a team, we know each other well and we’re practically family and you’ve just seen a lot of people put their hearts on the line there. We love this sport and love one another, so we went into this as a team and what we all wanted was the same thing.”
Team captain Adam Gemili surmised:
“We just feel really disappointed, for the guys on the side-lines and everyone at home, that we couldn’t come out and deliver a medal, which we know we’re more than capable of. We got it round, but it wasn’t fast enough today and the better teams beat us.”
Loughborough University sports science graduate Emily Diamond and Loughborough based Anyika Onuora ran the opening two legs of the women’s 4x400m relay to put Team GB in a strong position to qualify for Saturday night’s final.
Diamond ran a good first leg to hand over in second behind Jamaica, before Onuora ran a fast 50.4 split to move the team closer the leaders. Christine Ohuruogu ran the final leg to bring the team home second, qualifying for the final in 3.24.81.
Of the team’s performance Emily Diamond said:
“We wanted to come out here, run strongly and qualify for the final - I think it’s easy to get carried away and think about what we can do in the final, but today it was all about making it. Now we can go rest up, come back tomorrow and hopefully perform even better and potentially come away with something.”
Anyika Onuora added:
“I’ve been excited to be here and finally get my opportunity to run – I’ve been watching the team perform massively – everyone has been doing so well and supporting each other. It’s just nice to get out and run in the Olympic Stadium. Job done tonight and the big one tomorrow.”
Martyn Rooney ran an outstanding final leg to see the men through the 4x400m final with a quick 2.58.88 time. With a point to prove after a poor run in the individual 400m, Rooney ran the perfect anchor leg to move the British team from third to first, and perhaps suggest they may be able to compete for a medal in the final.
*At the time of writing the British team were protesting over a lane violation, which may see them disqu