GB Reds Run Riot in Rio
It was the world number ones, the Netherlands, who were favourites to win once again this year, aiming to be the first ever women’s hockey side to win three successive Olympic gold medals. GB women took home bronze in front of the home crowd at the last Olympics and had high hopes and aspirations going into Rio to hopefully defend, if not improve, on their result in London 2012. Despite slipping to seventh in the world rankings since London, they proved earlier this year they have what it takes to beat the best, The Netherlands, in a series victory over them in June. The question was would GB women be able to do it again and beat the Netherlands as they entered the Olympic final for the first ever time? We all know that they answer was of course yes, and in dramatic fashion too, but what happened before the final?
The Road to the Gold Medal Match
The women had been on exceptional journey this Olympics, and it all started by winning their group without losing. They faced their biggest rivals Australia in their opening match where Owsley in her Olympic debut scored GBs first goal of the tournament. GBs golden girl Danson also began her tally of goals this match scoring in the third period. The final score against Australia was 2-1. The women continued their success against India with goals from Ansley, White and Danson with her 95th international goal which meant GB won 3-0. London 2012 silver medallists, Argentina, provided GB with their closest and toughest match of the group stage. Richardson-Walsh dominated the second quarter to score not once but twice giving GB a 2-0 lead going into the second half. Bray then scored a third for GB. Argentina fought back to make the final score 3-2 to GB. Still undefeated they faced Japan. Owsley and White hammered home a goal each to make the final score 2-0. There next opponent, USA, had also won every match in group B and scored first when GB faced them, putting the side under pressure. However, in the final period, GB fought back with Danson and Bray each scoring to make the final score 2-1 and secure GB the top spot in the group.
GB women faced Spain in the quarter finals who finished fourth in group A. Twigg and Richardson-Walsh scored in the first quarter to firmly put GB in the lead. Owsley then furthered GBs lead just before half time. Spain claimed a goal past GBs
goalkeeper Hinch (right), who was celebrating her 100 international fixture in this Olympic quarter final, to make the final score 3-1 to GB.
The women then progressed to the semi-finals where they faced New Zealand. As both teams headed out onto the pitch you could feel the atmosphere of the crowd and the determination of the players. New Zealand, who were ranked 4th in the world, had several goal scoring opportunities. But it was GB who broke the dead-lock when Danson reacted quickest in the ‘D’ after New Zealand failed to clear the ball. The Kiwis had wave after wave of attack but GB defence held strong and managed to withstand their penetrative plays in the second and third periods. It was a feisty and aggressive game displayed by New Zealand clearly showing they would do anything to secure their place in the final, an attitude which culminated with both Cullen and Twigg being subbed off due to head injuries. The final quarter saw two penalty strokes awarded to GB due to Richardson-Walsh being taken out by the Black sticks Whitelock and the same thing happened when Owsley was crushed by New Zealand’s Thompson. Richardson-Walsh and Alex Danson hammered home two excellent penalty flicks to finish the match 3-0 to GB.
The Gold Medal Match
GB women, who had only ever won 2 Olympic hockey medals, both being bronze in Barcelona 1992 and London 2012, entered the final with a 100% record in the tournament so far, where they faced the Netherlands, who were be defending their Olympic and world titles. Netherlands faced Germany in their semi-final which finished 1-1 leading to a shootout which they won 4-3. It was clear that this final would be one not to miss as both teams would fight till the end to take home gold. The first goal of the final came 10 minutes into the first period from GBs Owsley. Bray excellently out-skilled three of the Dutch’s defence to strike the
ball at goal only for the goalkeeper to save it, but Owsley got the rebound and put GB ahead in the first period. The Netherlands came out fighting in the second quarter demonstrating why they are world number ones as Kitty Van Male scored a minute after the restart, capitalising on gaps in GBs defence. Paumen then hammered in a penalty corner to put the Dutch in the lead for the first time this match. Cullen responded though for Team GB 2 minutes later with a stunning open play goal with no Dutch defence to be seen to equalise the score at 2-2. GB throughout this fixture were under constant pressure due to a high Dutch press leading to a series of short corners which eventually, the Netherlands Paumen scored off to make the score 3-2 to the Dutch. But White for GB responded with a goal from a GB penalty corner to equalise and take this women’s Olympic hockey final to a shootout. A penalty shootout in hockey means that a player has 8 seconds to score from the 23 line. The Netherlands were well practiced as they got through to the finals on a shootout against Germany, however this gave GB keeper Maddie Hinch the opportunity to study their patterns of play and be ready to face them one of one. GBs Richardson-Walsh went up first but was unable to score. Hinch then saved the Dutch shot so the score after the first round was 0-0. Bray was unable to score for GB however the Netherlands goalkeeper fouled her resulting in a penalty stroke with Richardson-Walsh scored to put GB in the lead. Another outstanding save by Hinch meant after round 2 the score was 1-0 to GB. Unsworth was also unable to score for GB. Hinch only just saved the goal in round 3 as it rebounded off the post. As Webb (above) stood up to take her turn she knew that if she scored this goal it would be gold for GB. And that’s exactly what she did, making the final score of the Olympic final shootout 2-0 to GB.
The women had done what had never happened before. They had won Olympic hockey gold for GB. Throughout this tournament they had been focused allowing them to win 8 from 8 games. They battled through their fixtures and truly believed not only in themselves but each other and their coach. From Bronze in the last Olympics to Gold this time they are a true inspiration. This final marked captain Kate Rirchardson-Walsh’s 375th international cap as well as being her last game as she steps down after 13 years of captaincy. She will be able to retire proudly with a European gold medal and also now an Olympic gold medal. And of course, to cap it all off, we look forward to seeing Lily Owsley proudly wearing her gold Olympic medal around campus.