What do GB's hockey teams need to do to win medals at the Olympics?

GB win the Olympic Test Event Final 2-0 against Argentina 450x343

Mel ClewlowMel Clewlow - double Olympian and BBC Summariser

We had an indepth chat with Great Britain hockey legend Mel Clewlow as she prepares for her role as summariser on the BBC commentary team for the women's Olympic hockey at London 2012. 

Mel spoke about her expectations of the GB women's team, who she thinks will be the main rivals and the potential lift that the 16,000 strong crowd will give the team at the Riverbank Arena. Click play on the broadcast below.


John Inverdale – BBC Olympics Anchor

First up, do you think medals are a realistic prospect for both sides?
Yes, of course. They’re a realistic prospect. Although I follow women’s hockey more closely, I think both sides have made some excellent progress recently.

John InverdaleWho would you say is stronger at the moment – the men or the women?
You’d say that the women have the edge over the men at the moment. In Alex Danson, assuming she’s fit to play, the women have someone who can light up not just the hockey tournament, but become one of the stories of the Olympics.

What are the key areas to improve on?
I think that if you look at British hockey over the years, perhaps sides like the Dutch or the Germans have played with more freedom, with that extra bit of creativity. Perhaps it’s a trait of British sports teams in general. Being structured isn’t necessarily an issue – we’ve seen Chelsea achieve a lot in football as a very structured group – but I have a feeling that the teams will need that extra spark and bit of inspiration if they are going to win.

You’ve said in the past how impressed you are with the GB teams’ fitness...
I think it is easy to underestimate the importance of physical fitness. As I say, I know more about what the women have been doing, but I know that there have been a few beasting sessions. Maintaining those fitness levels will be important.

What are your thoughts on squad rotation?
I may be being an old fart, but I’ve always believed that your first team is your first team and that you bring on new players when they’ve got tired legs. I’m not sure if it’s of any benefit to have someone on the pitch for three minutes who won’t touch the ball.

Key players?
I mentioned Alex Danson already. If she can have a bit of a run, I think the women could go a long way. For the men, if Ashley Jackson were playing in another sport he’d be a huge name.

Ashley Jackson celebrates scoring a goal for Great Britain

Is the psychological side of the game something our sides need to work on? Or is it just down to skill levels?
Psychology undoubtedly plays a part at elite level. I may be old-fashioned in some views, but modern techniques and modern thinking is something I firmly believe in.

Are there broader issues within the game in this country?
We need to get more people engaged. One thing that I find frustrating is when you see a hockey player interviewed and they seldom ever make reference to the club the player plays for. It doesn’t help a sport if you’ve only got a handful of people watching. You wouldn’t have Wayne Rooney playing in front of 50 people, would you?

I think the women might win silver and I think the men will be in the third and fourth playoffs... Sometimes that can be the hardest game of all because somebody gets something and someone walks away with nothing.

Jane Sixsmith - British Hockey Legend

Sutton Coldfield's Jane Sixsmith during their Investec Women's Premier Division game at Polo Farm, Canterbury, Kent, 5th November 2011.How do you see the women going?
Since this is the first ever time a female GB team will play host, London 2012 will be a very difficult occasion, undoubtedly testing the composure and focus of our players. With the massive growth of social media, which didn’t exist in 1992 when we were focused and took bronze in Barcelona, the potential for distraction is higher than ever. Ultimately, how we use our free time is crucial.

What will the pressure be like?
Although all other hockey tournaments don’t give rise to massive media attention, the Olympics is completely different. You can’t step out of your apartment without being seen, so we are cooped up most of the time. The key element is togetherness, as the slightest thing can upset the group. Team spirit is a big thing, and the fact that our players have lived and worked together is potentially crucial.

Is playing at home a help or a hindrance?
Being at home is a definite advantage, especially if you look at previous Olympiads, with Spain and Australia’s women winning gold in 1992 and 2000 respectively. The pressure is obviously higher at home, but the crowd act like an extra player. After the initial shock of being out there, intuition kicks in – and scoring a goal certainly helps! Obviously, having a good overall team is highly beneficial, but there are always going to be some key players. Having them can be reassuring, and tactically you can use that to your advantage.

And what about our opponents?
If anything, the recent disappointment in the Investec London Cup has galvanised the team and acted as a huge wake-up call..With the much-fancied Dutch team in our group, and Germany as potential knockout phase opponents, there’s no room for complacency. The Netherlands’ prowess
is self-evident, and the Germans are very consistent, always doing well and playing it safe to frustrate opponents.

Dutch 450

Any dark horses?
We are not so familiar with teams like South Africa and Australia, but we are sure that neither will give up easily against Team GB should they progress from the group stage.

A prediction?
Overall, I think we have a decent chance of taking gold. A bronze for the men’s team is an honourable and realistic target. 

Don't miss a second of the action with the BBC

As of Sunday 29th July, there will be a GB hockey match live on BBC television every day! The women’s and men’s competitions are being played on alternate days so there will be plenty of opportunities for you to watch and cheer on GB.

The women start things off at 7:00pm with their first pool match against Japan, while the men’s first game is against Argentina at 7:00pm on 30th July. See the table below for the timings and channels of GB's pool matches.

GB Women's Pool Matches

Date Time Opponent Channel
29/07/2012 7pm Japan BBC Olympics 7
31/07/2012 4pm South Korea BBC Olympics 10
02/08/2012 7pm Belgium BBC Olympics 7
04/08/2012 4pm China BBC Olympics 8
06/08/2012 7pm Netherlands BBC Olympics 10

GB Men's Pool Matches

Date Time Opponent Channel
30/07/2012 7pm Argentina BBC Olympics 8
01/08/2012 4pm South Africa BBC Olympics 12
03/08/2012 4pm Pakistan BBC Olympics 10
05/08/2012 7pm Australia BBC Olympics 7
07/08/2012 7pm Spain BBC Olympics 7

*Please note that the 'BBC Olympic Channels' can be accessed online by clicking here or via the red button by Sky, Freesat and Virgin viewers. BBC Sport Logo

Click here to download a full Olympic hockey match schedule.