OLYMPICS LONDON 2012: Walsh delighted to secure first hockey medal in 20 years
GREAT Britain women’s hockey captain Kate Walsh revealed it was tough to switch her focus from London 2012 gold to bronze after a defeat in the semi-finals – but couldn’t be more happy with third place.
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Team GB were a side transformed from their semi-final performance against Argentina, and dominated their third-place tie against New Zealand, eventually winning 3-1.
The medal comes just eight years after the women failed to qualify for the 2004 games in Athens, and four years after a sixth-place finish in Beijing 2008.
The match is likely to be Walsh’s last Olympic appearance and she was overjoyed with the result having been beaten in the semi-final.
“We were heartbroken after that semi-final and we vowed that we weren’t going to go home empty-handed,” said Walsh.
“We came out and we played our best game this tournament by miles and just absolutely swept the New Zealand team aside.
“I’m just so proud of the girls, the whole 28 squad (the full hockey team before Olympic selection), we did it for all of them and it was amazing.”
Walsh, who is playing with a fractured jaw and titanium plate in her cheek, was the star performer in the match but was struggling to grasp what the team had achieved.
“I think I’ve just been so focussed on getting a medal and once we couldn’t get that gold we were focussed on getting the bronze,” Walsh added.
“In a few weeks’ time it’ll hit me and then I’ll realise what a crazy two weeks this has been.”
Chances were few and far between in a first-half that Britain controlled. Their best hope of a goal inevitably came from Crista Cullen's penalty corners but New Zealand goalkeeper Bianca Russell was on hand to deny her on two occasions.
The Kiwis could have been ahead against the run of play if they had taken a good chance from a penalty corner just before the break. Fortunately for the home side Charlotte Harrison’s deflection went the wrong side of the post.
A much more open second-half began with Katie Glynn deflecting Cathryn Finlayson’s pass onto Great Britain’s post in the opening minute. Walsh was on hand to mop up though and the danger was cleared.
Great Britain took the lead after nine minutes of the second period as Alex Danson scored her fifth goal of the tournament. Her deft deflection from a Walsh penalty corner left Russell wrong-footed on the line with no hope of making a save.
The game became more end-to-end and Great Britain should have extended their lead when Sarah Thomas broke on the counter attack but failed to find Ashleigh Ball who was free at the top of the circle.
Britain extended their lead with ten minutes to play. The second goal came from a favoured source as Cullen finally converted from a penalty corner, low to Russell’s right.
New Zealand were struggling to get out of their own half in the final minutes and GB grabbed a third goal with eight minutes remaining. Walsh again provided the pass and Thomas was on hand to touch in at the back post.
The Black Sticks snatched a goal back in the dying minutes, also from a penalty corner, with Stacey Michelsen getting the faintest of touches on Clarissa Eshuis’ effort.
It was the most they could muster though and the final whistle was greeted with cheers and tears in equal measure as Great Britain celebrated their bronze medal.
© Sportsbeat 2012