“I can’t believe it. It hasn’t sunk in at all. It feels like a dream. I haven’t got used to it but it was the most incredible experience and the best team effort I’ve been involved in and to get a gold medal at the end of it is something else.”
Alex Danson’s eyes light up as she glances down at the Olympic Gold medal hanging round her neck. For a player with over 250 international appearances to her name to describe something as the “best ever” you know it’s pretty special.
Of course Danson collected a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012, a memory she describes as “something truly amazing” however there was a determination about the group that went to Rio. The blend of young, hungry players and experienced heads married perfectly to deliver a gold medal for Great Britain.
“We got to Rio and we were so close as a group. We knew what we wanted to achieve and we just took it game by game, built that momentum and that belief. Once we got the final it was a case of one game to go. One more job to do. When that whistle went and it went to shootout we knew we were ready to the do business. It came off for us and I still can’t quite believe it.” says Danson.
The striker talks of being surrounded by “unbelievable people” throughout her career. One of those people who has been almost a constant is Danny Kerry, the Head Coach. Danson, who finished the Olympics as joint top scorer for the second time in succession paid tribute to the coach saying:
“Danny is the best tactician in the world. He knows exactly how we need to play to beat every team and he knows exactly how to get the squad to implement those tactics. We as a squad respond to him because there is complete trust in what he says. He works so well with the rest of the staff and gives us a game plan. He always gets us where we need to be and for me, there’s no one better.”
Kerry is of course famed for his poker face during matches. Cameras often pan to the Coach in the stand but it is rare that he gives anything away. Even he found it very difficult to mask the joy at the triumph in an Olympic final, however:
“He was so happy like we all were.” smiles Danson. “He was cheering and running around, all the staff were. Once they got on the field it was a great feeling to be all together. It was the Olympic final; we’d just won but it was like no one else was there. Only those people know what we’ve done, how hard we’ve worked and what it took to get there. It was special to be all together in that moment.”
The legacy of the gold medal was in full effect almost immediately. Danson and her teammates were met off the plane by a cluster of fans, stopping and signing autographs and posing for photos as seemingly everyone wanted to congratulate their heroes.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that would happen. To be met off the plane by so many hockey fans was incredible. We want to inspire the future and get more people playing. Hopefully we can do that and hopefully people see how special team sports can be. It’s a truly exciting time for us and our sport.”
A truly exciting time indeed. Just the small matter of the Women’s World Cup in 2018 for Alex to add to her gold collection, then…..