As both the men’s and women’s squad settle into their new centralised training programmes this week, Great Britain and England Hockey are delighted to announce the athletes involved in the senior international women’s programme.
Jason Lee, appointed as the new Head Coach of the England and Great Britain women’s team back in February, has named 29 athletes in his squad. With the continued and invaluable support of Investec, specialist bank and asset manager, and National Lottery funding , the coaching team and athletes will spend the next four years preparing for and building up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
After winning bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, 10 medallists return to the side with their sights firmly set on an exciting summer of tournaments and the road ahead. Reading’s Kate Walsh, Alex Danson, Emily Maguire and Helen Richardson; Leicester’s Hannah Macleod and Nicola White; Slough’s Ashleigh Ball; Surbiton’s Georgie Twigg; Loughborough Students’ Laura Unsworth and Bowdon Hightown’s Sally Walton all return to the fold.
And with several other members of the London 2012 squad announcing their retirement Lee has called upon the experience of Reading’s Susie Gilbert and Sam Quek alongside Beckie Herbert of Pinoke (NED) and Maddie Hinch of Leicester as well as bringing in some slightly less familiar faces.
Six players have been called up to the centralised programme following successful international debuts at the Investec Challenge in South Africa earlier this year; Loughborough Students’ Giselle Ansley, University of Durham’s Steph Elliott, Sarah Haycroft of Surbiton, Jo Leigh of Clifton and Beeston’s Captain Hollie Webb and Ellie Watton.
England and Great Britain Captain, Kate Walsh, sees a bright future with the new squad, “It’s very exciting to restart the centralised training programme with a fresh coaching set-up and new faces in the squad. We’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience in the side and looking to the summer ahead, with the Investec World League and the European Championships, I can’t wait to see how the team gels and progresses.”
Looking ahead over the next four years, Lee has named five Scottish athletes in the side. The new faces of Alison Bell, Amy Gibson, Nikki Kidd and Morag McLellan join Olympian Emily Maguire; however the initial focus this summer will very much be on the home nations for both Scotland and England.
England’s first world level tournament will be on home turf from 22-30 June at the Investec World League Semi Final which takes place in London and then Scotland will join them in Pool B action at the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships from 17-25 August in Antwerp, Belgium.
Speaking about the road ahead, Lee is eager to start working with his full-time centralised team of coaches and athletes, “The new squad represents a very healthy blend of exciting young talent, those athletes who have already experienced an Olympic cycle and a small group of experienced and world class athletes who understand very well the rigours of Olympic preparation. With a new coaching team and new athletes, we know there’s a lot of hard work to be done before the Investec World League in June, but I’m confident we have the right balance to take us up to the next level over this four year cycle.”
Great Britain and England Performance Director Danny Kerry added, "Our centralised programme remains cutting edge and will allow the very best preparation of the squad over the coming cycle.. I would like to thank the on-going support of the National Lottery and its key role in supporting the funding of performance sport, UK Sport and the EIS in its custodianship of our high performance Olympic sport system.”
“Equally, the investment of our women's sponsor Investec, continues to give us critical profile and investment. These key partners are pivotal in our endeavours to facilitate our athletes taking their place on podiums as they did consistently through the last cycle and at the London 2012 Olympics."
For four of the London 2012 medallists and 12 of the squad in total their immediate focus is both international and domestic hockey as they prepare to do battle for their clubs at the Investec Women’s Finals Weekend at Reading Hockey Club this weekend (20-21 April).
Nicola White and Maddie Hinch will be hoping to defend their title with Leicester as they take on Georgie Twigg and Sarah Haycroft’s Surbiton side in their semi final at 15:15, whilst Reading stalwarts Kate Walsh, Alex Danson, Sam Quek, Susie Gilbert and Emily Maguire will be going for glory as they take on Susannah Townsend and Dilly Newton of Canterbury on home turf in the second semi final at 17:30. The winners will fight it out in the final at 17:15 on Sunday.