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B's Blog 10 - 13/8/12 FINAL BLOG
It’s over. Our camp has mixed emotions about our results and the way we played. I personally am disappointed and frustrated about our performance in the bronze match against GB. I’d hoped to come away with the ultimate souvenir, a medal. But in reality we fell short at the finish. It makes me envy some of the other codes where they turn up primed for a single event, do their best and then live with the result. For team sports it’s a massive challenge to play ‘the biggest game of your life’ poor all your efforts into it knowing that one goal, one save, one dive or act of desperation could seal the game, then you have to absorb the result, refocus, get up and do it all again – and again – and again. For me every game just got bigger, more important, more pressure, more at stake, and more expectation than I’ve ever had to deal with before. The first 6 games were the highest quality and most intense games I have ever played, the pinnacle would certainly be the Dutch semi which we lost on shoot outs. The Dutch went on to take a comfortable gold. It’s early days but at the moment I feel pretty hollow knowing that we didn’t achieve our goal of a medal. On the upside I know we’ve set a few records for NZ women’s hockey, apparently the Kiwi public have been kind and got on board which is great for the profile of our sport. Our official world ranking lifts from 6th to 3rd – another first for Hockey NZ. There will be ramifications and flow on from this campaign, hopefully funding and sponsorship opportunity as we are now being pitches as ‘the most marketable team in NZ’ according to the Herald. I’m sure we will hear more about that in the months following Olympics. We had a private function last night for the Black Sticks teams, our friends and family in London and it was just what the doctor ordered to help us vent some pent up emotions and for one night, just let go. We took the late train home, made a bee line for the food hall and got amongst the free flow McDonalds. Now I have a McHangover. Today is spent packing up the huge amount of gear that comes with us around the world. Personal kit was checked in by airport staff who are stationed in the village for those flying home tomorrow. Gear we won’t need for a while is being loaded for shipping container back to Auckland. Tonight we all go to the closing ceremony which we are really looking forward to. There are rumours the Spice Girls are reuniting for it among other huge British artists so it should be a pretty epic gig. I haven’t been in the main stadium yet either because we didn’t do the opening ceremony, so that in itself will be cool. Quite a few people have been asking me about my future with the team. Everyone is aware I’m not getting any younger and the body has its fair share of war wounds. Mum seems to have convinced herself that I’m retiring but I’ve never actually said I would. There will be a conversation with the medical support staff and most likely my boss to see if any more commitment is possible but that’s something I don’t have to deal with right now anyway. So what’s next for me? A day to have a quick wander around London and take in as much of this awesome city as I can, then a few days in Suffolk with my brother and his family which is a long overdue visit. I’ll be home in time for NHL tournament week and play for my home province North Harbour where hopefully we can snatch another title. So was it worth it? Damn right it was. The Olympics experience can’t be bought but it can be earned. For me it’s been a lifetime goal and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity. There are other athletes out there who have done as much as I have to get here but have missed through injury, or are good enough to be here but there simply aren’t enough places on the team. To those guys I say – don’t give up. You’ve added value to our group by pushing us hard every day and every training. To the young aspiring athletes who have watch our games and all of a sudden have a spark of desire to be here one day; fuel that fire, have a go. I guess all that’s left now is the ‘thank you’s’ and there are so many that I’ll have to pick just a few. My family for being there every day in every way, my hockey friends and the amazing community at Harbour Hockey and Hibiscus Dairy Flat hockey club whose support has been unwavering over so many years, to all the people who took the time to email, tweet, facebook, write and draw their messages of support for us through this campaign, to our Hawke’s Bay supporters who have embraced the Black Sticks as their own, to my employer Secom Guardall for allowing me to follow my dreams, to the teams at Mizuno and OBO who sponsor my training gear and goalie gear, and last but not least to my friends at home – you know who you are and there will be a burger night at B’s very soon!
B's Blog 9 - 9/8/12
How close was that game versus the Dutch? Damn close and if nothing else we’ve showcased our sport to the world by providing some fast, thrilling action on the smurf turf again tonight. This would have to be the hardest loss I’ve ever had to swallow and I’m feeling emotionally drained just now. Just as I dared to dream about the possibility of gold, the dream is gone. The worst bit for me was coming off the pitch and going through the media and being interviewed by several different reporters all wanting to know how I felt and what I thought of the game. I fed them a few quotes including a classic that I bet they’ll never use regarding Katie Glynn being smacked on the head. It was a ‘gusher’ and I commented she used to be blonde and now she’s a ‘ranga’. Thankfully she’s also tough as nails, got up walked off, got stitched and stapled and came back on. What a legend. In reality we were all disappointed following that game but all the girls gave it their best efforts and that’s all you can do really. The sun will come up tomorrow, a bronze would be better than nothing so I’ve pretty much got tonight to get over it because tomorrow we have to carry on with our campaign.
There is something about medals that captures my curiosity. The other day we were walking down to the hockey arena to watch a game and met a GB rower who had a gold in her pocket. Sammy wanted to see it and I asked how heavy it was – the rower goes “about a tin of beans” and ever since then I’ve been picturing winners with tins of beans hanging around their necks. I think I might be getting a bit tired! Our manager Debbie came to the rescue after dinner with emergency chocolate. She carries Freddo’s for evenings when the girls need a little lift. It’s just something little but it goes a long way. If we need another lift, just walk around and read all the letters, pictures and messages of support that have been flowing in every day. If you ever wondered if the athletes actually read those notes – we do.
Bed time now for me but just before I go, to all those Kiwis who made the effort and got up in the middle of the night to watch – I sincerely hope you enjoyed the game and thank you for your commitment to the cause
B's Blog 8 - 7/8/12
Wow, the ride continues with a win over USA and a draw with Germany putting us into the top 4 playoffs. We face #1 ranked Dutch in our semi final and once again we’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. Today has been epic. The stadium was again full of Kiwis cheering themselves hoarse. I lost my voice during game two and every time it’s just coming right I have another game and have to yell full volume just to get through over the 16,000 crowd. At the end of the game most of us didn’t know if the draw was enough to get us through. When we realised, it still took a while to sink in. Once we got back to our phones, facebook had gone nuts over the result with friends, friends of friends, long lost friends, friends cats, people we know that we didn’t realise were friends, their friends and some random strangers all sending their best wishes. Twitter too made me stop and think ‘Who are all you people and where did you come from?’ The support is fantastic and it just goes to show the power of social media to connect to people back home. Several players took the opportunity of a free afternoon to take the tube to the city. All the athletes were given Oyster cards when we arrived so public transport is free for us. As soon as we left the village we had people wanting photos, pins and autographs. There were volunteers and crowd control everywhere, including some on raised platforms like tennis umpires have, with mega phones moving people along ‘no standing here – move along – don’t stop in the stairs’ all because of the sheer volumes of people getting through from Stratford Station to Olympic Park. You have to walk through the massive Westfield mall to get to the tube and the mall is packed like Christmas peak shopping. Our parents, siblings and friends that have come over are having a ball. It’s great they can share in these precious days with us. It feels like game one I was thinking ‘this will be the biggest game of my life’ then every game after has been bigger. With two to play I mentioned to Kayla “just how big can it get?” and all she said was “Bigger”.
B's Blog 7 - 4/8/12
We are at the stage in our tournament where it’s easy to get distracted by outcomes and start focussing on the medal possibilities. Two wins and a loss means we need two wins from the remaining two pool games to get through to medal rounds for certain. Today we play USA, the dark horse in our pool. The Americans are playing well, so we’ll need a complete performance to take maximum points from this game. The good will from back home is soaking through to our camp with kids drawings, fan letters, messages of support all blu-tacked to the walls. We have a full wall of messages at the entry to our apartment too and yesterday some people from other teams were in the foyer (raiding our vending machine – again) and they looked quite impressed by it all. Still, if they could leave our drinks machine alone, that would be great.
As the Olympics progress there are more and more athletes that have finished competing. All the swimming is finished and that accounts for a large chunk of athletes who are ready for their post competition relax time. Other sports are just starting up, the Athletics programme is up and running (‘scuse the pun). For us it’s hard to keep track of the days, I gave up on what day of the week it is a while back and now it’s either ‘game day’ or ‘prep day’. Preparation days involve a rest morning, training, pool recovery session and a video scouting session on the next opposition. We have been scouting in small groups, strikers, midfield, screens and defence etc. I’m a scouting group of 1 and look at penalty corners and opposition circle entries. That gives me a good idea of opposition strikers’ traits, what to expect and what defensive corners to run.
Walking around the village and Olympic park at night, the thing I notice most is the colours. This whole Olympics is themed around bright pink and blue. Everything including buildings, stadiums, bridges, statues are all lit up with bright colours at night. There are giant TV screens, one building that’s entirely mirrors and it gives a lively, exciting atmosphere. Crowds of people come to the grassy park for the big screens to watch for free all the sports. Because the venues are mostly right outside the village we can also hear the crowds cheering as we wander to and from the food hall. Although the walk to food and transport is getting to be a drag because it’s the other side of the village, I’m grateful that we have the quiet side. The basketball stadium is made of plastic stretched over steel and the nearest venue, so no sound buffer at all really for the teams on that side of the village.
Anyway I have things to do to get ready for another massive game tonight. The equation is simple – must win. The process for me doesn’t change – my job – stop the ball from going in the net.
B's Blog 6 - 1/8/12
Well we’re two from two up and pretty happy about it too. If we are keeping our feet on the ground though they were two games we should have won and the next one is a different kettle of fish altogether. We switch from the morning matches to the late night 9:15pm match against the nocturnal Argentinians. We love playing them and have nothing to lose against the world champions but everything to gain so we’ll be out there with a ‘have a crack’ attitude. USA just pulled off a huge upset and beat them 1-0 so they’ll be on the rebound too.
Around the village we’ve had another Royal sighting. A couple of the girls saw Prince Harry, rushed out fumbling camera phones to give chase and – quite obliviously – ran right into the middle of the royal party, one of them being pulled away by security, the other coming face to face with Kate Middleton and on realizing who she was staring at blurted out “Oh $h!t”. Not exactly royal protocol girls. It was Charlotte Harrison’s birthday today so she was made to stand on a chair in the food hall at dinner while we all sang Happy Birthday for her. This is tradition at the food hall, everyone there joins in and for some reason the applause was laced with a lot of wolf whistling this time round (can’t think why). We’ve had the chance to go and watch some hockey but not many are taking up the opportunity, purely because post match we are all so tired, we tend to seek out food and a couch where we can watch the other games on TV. Speaking of food, we discovered the Al Fresco dining area on the other side of the village that do BBQ steak and chicken wraps. It’s become our lunch regular. Meanwhile in the food hall the McDonalds line is becoming more popular as athletes complete their competitions and embark on their blow out binges. It’s tragic looking at the expressions of those still competing as some random sits near us and tucks into the nuggets and fries. If the organisers had thought of everything they would have roped off a McD’s consumption zone. I’ve had huge fun following the equestrian eventing team but seen hardly any of their actual performance as it always clashed with hockey stuff. The other girls in the team were also getting right into the equestrian but kept charging into my room to ask questions about it. Interestingly they couldn’t get their head around it being gender equal sport. One of the really cool things about being here is meeting all the other NZ athletes. If you feel social or just want a change of scene from our rooms, you can head down to the common lounge and chat away to the others. We have a coffee machine there and thanks to my extensive coffee making experience from working at Guardall for the last 5 years I now have the perfect conversation opener where you can offer to make coffee for athletes who don’t know how to operate the machine. For those who are wondering, Secom Guardall do security electronics, alarm monitoring and the like but the GM is a coffee snob like me, so we have a great machine which directly contributes to productivity I’m sure.
B's Blog 5 - 29/7/12
This is it. First is was a dream then is was a hope then it became the goal and now it’s here – after 20 plus years of hockey I’m about to realise the pinnacle of any athletes career and play at the Olympic Games. The last few days have been littered with events that will stay with me forever. The welcome to the village with haka and presentation of our pounamu, the ceremony to announce flag bearer (it’s Nick Willis), the opening ceremony and it’s hype and excitement in the village that day that lead up to the teams marching away and our group all together watching it on the NZ House TV’s. We spent today preparing with our final training then relaxing for a couple of hours taking in the sport channels and tuning in to find the Kiwi’s out competing on day one. This afternoon we had the match briefing that all our hours of study have laboured to produce. Tomorrow we’ll refresh the key points in the changing room before our game. We are up at 5:30am and on a tight schedule to be ready for our 8:30am game so tonight we have packed all our gear and readied our uniforms all set for the morning. The other thing we’ve prepared is a team playlist for pre-game music in the changing room. The game itself could go either way on the day but one thing’s for sure, it will be a battle as it always is with our neighbours from across the ditch. We must trust in our preparation, trust in our plan and trust in each other that we can, and will, get the job done. Oh, and I nearly forgot... did I mention those flash looking red white and blue helicopters that were buzzing us the other day? We thought that was Obama doing a sightsee but it was the Queens helicopters filming for the opening ceremony. She came into the village today by the way. We missed her but she went to the food hall and met some Kiwi's there - no corgies though. Wish us luck!
B's Blog 4 - 27/7/12
A day in the village: Mostly I blog about the quirky little things that happen on tour, what the location is like or how we are going results wise, but it’s not all fun all of the time. This blog is just to give you a general idea of how we spend our typical day and although I’d rate this one less interesting than most, I think it’s only fair I give you a little insight into the day I consider ‘normal’.
Wake up (too early – it’s always too early – Black Sticks love to sleep), check hydration level, weigh in and head to the enormous food hall for breakfast. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, once you get there everyone soaks up the energy and atmosphere in this giant buffet. Because it’s basically a massive white tent with bright lighting, it’s also impossible to tell what time of day it is while eating. Even waking up it’s bright and sunny because the sun is up early in this part of the world so all our Kiwi winter simulation doing early starts in the cold and dark makes this easy by comparison. After breakfast it’s off to hockey training. It might be the Olympic pitch Riverbank Arena or the back-up training venue at Old Loughts Club a 30 minute bus ride away. Leaving and entering the village sees us pass though some tight security. It’s all run very smoothly and extremely structured. There’s a transport centre which we walk to, escorts to take us to and from the right bus. A security person travels on the bus for the trip to the grounds and more staff are waiting for our arrival. We are ushered every step of the way until we step on to the turf (where the coaches take over). Post training we do ice baths for recovery. Re-entering the village our bus stops for army guys to check around and under for bombs and our gear goes through X-ray on the way back in. The fence around the village is substantial and I don’t know exactly what the helicopters are doing but are two or three and they fly constantly overhead with cameras mounted underneath. Could be media, could be security, I don’t know. There’s also a blimp but I’m fairly sure that’s ‘eye in the sky’ media. After lunch we spend more time in sub groups scouting our opposition, finding out their traits, habits and figuring out how to expose their weaknesses. We spend more time collating that information and still more time having team meeting which doubles as analysis of our own performance and a strategy plan for the next game. We had a window of free time to clear our heads this afternoon and the first chance we’ve had to sus-out the mega mall next to the village. Apparently it’s the largest in Europe and UK, it’s conveniently right outside the village – Black Sticks love to shop. I went to watch a movie but we checked the running time and figured we wouldn’t get back in time for our next team meeting so had to flag it – a pity really but it gave me a chance to get some laundry done and do some maintenance on my gear. We gathered yesterday in the lounge area of the NZ team building to watch the first half of the Football Ferns take on GB. Looked like they had a decent crowd in so I hope the girls enjoyed the atmosphere. After dinner we do our second meeting and then it’s off to bed. So that’s all the daily life – pretty mundane to be honest and once we are in routine it’s very much life as normal for us; sleep – eat –– play hockey – eat – hockey theory – eat – sleep. Sometimes we through in a gym conditioning or speed session, occasionally we get a block of free time to clear our heads. Now I don’t know first-hand, this being my first Olympics, but from what others have told us it’s pretty important to separate the Olympic environment from the business of playing our sport. I’ve been here a while and I’m only just managing to separate the two.
B's Blog 4 - 24/7/12
After a few unwinding days in Le Touquet, France we’ve returned to the village and it’s on with the business at hand. France was nice, the town was vibrant yet quaint, busy with markets and people but relaxed, beachy and quiet. Our accommodation was encompassed by an equestrian park and the area is a mecca for riders to bring their mounts for great trekking through the forest and beach. They have horse hire available, not that it mattered to me much as I hadn’t even unpacked before our physio and coach had both given me the ‘no riding’ lecture, knowing I have a horse of my own at home who I miss very much while away. Mark was quite direct “Now B, you’re not thinking of doing anything stupid like horse riding are you?” while Fiona the physio was more subtle “You have a dodgy knee, hip and back – it’s 10 days out from the Olympics – I want you to think carefully about your choices of activities here.” I clarify… “so… no riding then?” I had my revenge at dinner that night when the girls were planning their following day and I suggested they all go riding. Mark shot me the ‘LOD’ (Look of Death) but it was worth it.
B's Blog 3 - 16/7/12
Well, we have left Germany after taking a sound beating from a clinical looking German side in our final game and finishing second at the Bremen 4 Nations tournament. The anthems for the South Africa game were interesting, thiers played fine but ours kept cutting out and some dance music kept cutting in, eventually they cut the sound altogether and our girls just started singing it. There was a decent crowd in and they went dead silent listening before giving us a huge cheer and applause on completion of God Defend NZ. From Germany we took a bus to Amsterdam Schipol airport, I think it was about 5 hours bus time, a couple more hours waiting at the airport for a quick 1 hour dash over to London Heathrow. We were met as soon as we stepped off the flight by brightly dressed olympic volunteers who are excessivly friendly and enthusistic, obviously well briefed about first impressions. We went straight to a special area set up for processing incomming teams where our all important accreditations were done. These act as our visa for entry to the UK, ID, pass to get in and around the venues, food ticket - we have to wear it at all times so definitely not a pass to lose. On top of that we have keys to our appartments, rooms and drawers. There's an access tag which we use to sign in and out of the village, a tag that operates the drink vending machines everywhere for unlimited free drinks, the barcode on the accreditation is even used to track laundry drop off and collection.
B's Blog 2 - Practice games underway
Well we're off to a decent start with a 4-2 win over the Belgium girls. Katie Glynn scored and now holds the NZ record for number of international goals with 48 in her relatively short career to date. Today we had the morning off and most of us headed into town for a look around. It's actually really cool, loads of impressive old buildings, cobblestoned squares and streets, a fresh produce market where I grabbed some great berries and Jules King scored a sausage - as you do?! Germany of course has famously good sausage, salami, wiener, frankfurter - whatever the name they are all good. We saw the town icon statue, a donkey, dog, cat and rooster all standing on top of each other. Apparently there is a fairytale where they are all musicians and banded together and sang to scare off some nasty robbers. Something like that, anyway the animal stack is everywhere so I bought a small one as a souvenir. Speaking of animals, we went for a team walk and discovered an equestrian facility some of my horsey friends would have been drooling over. The pens were full of big warm-blood dressage horses and Sam Harrison wandered over to meet and greet a big Hanoverian stallion, he was all muscle and looked like the model for the bronze statues we saw in town.
B’s Blog 1 – Bremen, Germany
Talk about long haul flights, yoikes! Auckland Singapore Munich Bremen and eventually we arrived in a hazy daze. The hotel is connected to the university and there is a building next door in the shape of a rugby ball sitting on a kicking tee. Apparently it’s an interactive science museum. The other visiting teams for the 4 nations tournament, Belgium and South Africa are staying here too.
Bremen is nice but the warm euro summer is nowhere to be seen. So far every different van driver has proudly pointed out that Bremen is the home of Becks beer and Milka chocolate – such a tease. Most of the team are going choc-free until after the Olympics. I was sceptical as this would be a change in routine and the common advice offered about the Olympic campaign is ‘don’t change your normal routine’. Anyhow chocolate intake is generally result driven so if we do well it should be fine.
We’ve had a couple of near miss incidents from unlikely suspects, first Kayla left her brand new iPad on the plane but fortunately it was returned. Then my passport fell out of my pocket in the van on the way to our hotel. Luckily for me Alana saw it and grabbed it. Unluckily for me Mark saw it and grabbed it off Alana, swearing her to secrecy and setting me up that night by getting our manager Debbie to ask everyone to bring passports to the meeting. Of course I couldn’t find mine and didn’t know where I’d lost it so was pretty worried when I turned up last admitting I’d lost my passport in front of the everyone who had a good laugh at my expense. A$$h0l3!
We play a training match with Germany this afternoon, 3 x 20 minutes and apparently we are playing different scenarios in the last 20, so things like taking a player off as if they’d been sent off or playing like ‘1 goal up with 5 min to go’. We’ve done some of this at home too and it’s a classic example of the little extra preparations we are doing for Olympics.
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