The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of a hockey player’s career. A tournament they dream of and a tournament they work so hard for it is quite simply the highest accolade for a hockey player to even participate in the tournament.
England and Great Britain goalkeeper George Pinner is no exception, but having dreamed about the tournament, Rio did not go how he and his team mates had hoped:
“It was disappointing. As an athlete and someone who’s been lucky enough to be involved in international hockey a long time the Olympics was something I looked forward to. It was a dream come true but it didn’t go to plan. We believed we could win a medal so to not make it out of the group was devastating. We’re delighted for the girls but we wanted to be coming home with a medal too.” he adds “For whatever reason it didn’t click in Rio but it’s important to learn the lessons and not only from Rio but the period leading up and make sure we right a few wrongs from here on in.”
The disappointment Pinner feels runs right the way through the squad. The benefit of hindsight is obviously a wonderful thing but the Holcombe No1 is determined that the opportunity to learn and to grow is not wasted:
“Looking back you can obviously learn a lot. Personally I was devastated following being knocked out, especially whilst we were still out there. You come home and spend time with family and I’ve gone back to work. I’ve moved on and the main way to complete that process of moving on is to go and win tournaments.”
“I’m not running away from how Rio went, but I’m using it as a driver to win medals with England and Great Britain. European Championships, World Cup, World League on home soil it doesn’t matter the tournament, we have to do well and right the wrongs from Rio.”
One of the first chances to earn that redemption comes in the form of the World League Semi Final which is at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London. Having experienced tournaments at home Pinner is relishing the prospect of turning out in front of the superb fans in England once more:
“It’ll be great to play at home. What the women have done in winning an Olympic gold medal has helped hockey in this country. It’s disappointing we weren’t able to win a medal but because of the efforts of the women hockey is finally getting the attention it deserves. There’s no better way for us to help the profile of the sport ourselves by doing well on home soil.”
“We were fantastically supported at the Champions Trophy and the European Championships and it’ll be great to start the four year cycle off with a medal in front of the home fans. They always give us a little extra edge so we look forward to it.”
With some of the teams already confirmed Pinner knows they will come against some quality teams with India “getting stronger all the time” and Pakistan capable of “beating anyone on their day” it promises to be a superb competition. With the Olympic champions, Argentina also coming it gives Pinner a chance to renew his duel with Gonzalo Peillat, the most feared drag-flicker in world hockey.
“It’s interesting as a ‘keeper, you look forward to facing the best guys. It’s the relative unknowns who you aren’t quite as prepared for. Peillat expects to score every corner and in goal I set high standards. I expect to save everything and I work very hard to make sure that’s what I do. This calendar year I’ve improved that side of the game immensely. Hopefully I can keep it going. It’s great to face someone like him in big matches. They’re the moments you dream of and you hope you can help your team to win those big games and win the big medals.”
Tickets are already on sale for the World League Semi-Final. Make sure you are there to see England collide head on with some of the best around. All the details are here.