Stockport’s Team GB hockey captain reveals the secret behind their stunning Olympic glory

I feel like I’m living in a dream world and that at some point I will wake up and the last two weeks will have all been a figment of my imagination!

Just days ago we took to the hockey field in the Olympic final in Rio against the Netherlands and won! Cue mad scream, massive smile and then some tears. There has been a lot of that over the last few days.

You may or may not have followed the GB women’s hockey journey over the last few years, but let me tell you it’s been a very rocky road. Every single member of the 31-strong squad has given absolutely everything in the pursuit of the team’s dream. Unfortunately, only 16 players and three reserves could be selected to represent the team at the Olympic Games. Dreams were made and shattered.

Throughout the group of 31 young women, there are many inspiring stories of triumph over tragedy, struggle and sacrifice. When the 16 stood on the podium and were presented with a shiny gold medal after our shoot-out win over the Netherlands, we stood with the 31 in our hearts.

The two weeks of competition was incredibly hard both physically and emotionally. The hockey tournament consisted of eight games – five pool games, a quarter-final, semi-final and a final. We built momentum through the competition, staying tight within our self-made bubble. We had no distractions from the outside world as we had all decided as a squad to come off social media for the duration of the Games. We stuck to well-worn, tried and tested routines. Our morning stretches and quick player chats started every day in the right way. We kept bringing it back to square one, do your job for the good of the team to the very best of your ability in each given moment. I say square one, but I think a circle would be a more appropriate shape for our team!

I had started reading Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson, the legendary basketball coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, before our tournament got underway. He talks a lot about the significance and power of the circle in various cultures and situations. We use circles every day at our training base at Bisham Abbey. We gather in a circle on the pitch, we talk in a circle in meetings and we huddle in a circle before we play and after we play. The significance of the circle in Rio was profound for me.

Obviously there are the Olympic Rings themselves, but for us as a squad the tightness of our unit and the reflection of our training environment and our competition behaviours were significant.

I have been so pleased people had really seen our culture and understood what we were about as a squad. We wanted to ‘Be the difference, Create history and Inspire the future’. We have been striving for these things for ourselves, for the team and for the sport every single day we train.

To see how this vision has bonded us and to share that with the world has been one of the proudest moments of my life.

To stand on the top of the Olympic podium and say you are an Olympic champion is something I had dreamt about. I have wanted to sing that national anthem with my team-mates loud and proud since I was a little girl. I have set myself off crying again!

We could not have done this without the support of fantastically professional and dedicated staff lead by Danny Kerry. Also our friends and family, many of whom travelled out to Rio to support us. Whether home or away, friends and family are the foundation from which we are built and we thank you.