Hollie Pearne-Webb and Mark Hager have spoken about how the sacrifices made by the GB women’s squad in the last 18 months have been vindicated by winning Tokyo 2020 bronze.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant several members of the team have not seen their family for in excess of a year, while head coach Hager’s wife and children are based in New Zealand.
It’s been one of a number of factors that have made this a very challenging Olympic cycle for the team but they have overcome it all to secure a third consecutive medal at the Games, the first time a British hockey team has achieved this.
While there were 16 players on the pitch in Tokyo, both the captain and coach were quick to recognise that today’s success was the result of years of hard work by a huge group of people.
Pearne-Webb – who fired home to bring the scores level at 3-3 early in the second half – said after the game: “We very much rely on our whole squad. I wish every single one of them could get a medal, they deserve one. That’s why we’re here and have achieved what we have.
“It’s been a tough five years – really, really tough – and I couldn’t be prouder of them all. We’re all here because we still had that little bit of belief deep down. There’s been loads of times over the years where we doubted whether we could achieve this and I’m just so pleased and proud of everyone that we have.
“Last cycle was a rollercoaster, this cycle hasn’t been much of a rollercoaster because there haven’t been too many highs. There are a few girls here who experienced that massive high in Rio and I think after winning and achieving that ultimate dream, coming back from that is the biggest challenge.
“There’s been so many challenges, I can’t recall them all. Not just collectively as a team but individually as well. It’s been tough for everyone back home in the last 18 months and that’s been the same for us.
“Some of the girls, myself included, haven’t seen our families for over a year. We’ve been locked down, Christmas on our own, and we did that because we wanted to come here and give the best performances we could.
“An Olympic bronze a few months ago was in our wildest dreams so I’m just so proud of the whole squad, the whole support staff, everyone that’s been involved that we can come away with something from here."
Hager, who took over as women’s head coach in January 2019, added: “For the girls it means a hell of a lot. It's so rewarding for the group. Four months ago, if you asked me if we could get a medal I'd probably have said no. We had belief so it's very pleasing.
“[What I said at half-time is] Probably not repeatable! We just had to do the basics better, stop the counter attacks. We dropped off after our second goal but then we started creating chances again.
“The biggest challenge for me was not seeing my family for 15 months; my wife, kids and grandkids. I'm not sure when I'll get home but obviously it's my priority after celebrating. It's been hard but I wanted to do my job properly. I have to thank people like Hollie, and the whole group. When they see I'm down they ask me how I'm doing and I'm very appreciative.”