OLYMPICS LONDON 2012: Men’s hockey medal chances are genuine, claims Clarke
GREAT Britain hockey player Jonty Clarke believes the world is starting to sit up and take note of Team GB as he plots his route to the Olympic podium at London 2012.
Clarke was part of the side that travelled to Beijing ranked ninth in the world and no one’s tip for a medal – a fifth-place finish surpassing most expectations.
GENUINE CHANCE: Team GB men's hockey squad are here to claim a medal, warns Jonty Clarke
Now older and wiser the 31-year-old has been at the forefront of Britain’s rapid rise to fourth in the world rankings in recent years and he believes the chances of a medal are now genuine.
The European Championship gold won by England in 2009 was the catalyst for the resurgence, and Clarke admits he and his teammates now fear no one.
“I think we can beat anyone on our day, and everything between now and the start of the Games is about making sure we give ourselves a better chance of winning,” said Clarke, who will be looking to make it into Andy Halliday’s starting line-up in Britain’s first game against Japan on Sunday.
“We’re ranked fourth in the world, I don’t think we got there by accident, the world rankings are measured over a four-year period so it’s clear we’ve been pretty consistent over that time.
“We’ve won the European Cup in 2009, which is a major tournament, and we’ve also had some final appearances in the Champions Trophy so I think on our day we can be there or thereabouts.
“Getting out of our group is going to be tough, I think for the first time in a long time the top 12 ranked nations in the world have all qualified for the Olympics so that means there are no easy games, so getting into the semi-finals will be a tough task.”
Clarke, whose father Dick is England’s most-capped indoor player, got a taste of what to expect in Britain’s five-day test event at the Olympic venue in May – where they claimed gold against the likes of world champions Argentina.
The Riverbank Arena was only three-quarters full but the Reading forward insists a packed stadium could be the decisive factor in his hunt for a medal.
“I just can’t wait to get out there and play now, at the test event the noise was amazing, and that was only 12,000 people,” added Clarke, who scored in the 3-1 victory over Spain in GB’s final warm up game in Santander before the Olympics.
“The stadium is finished now, and there will be 4,000 more people in to make even more noise. We are ready for it but I still think there might be a bit of shock when we finally get to playing.”
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