They are the shape of England’s post-2012 midfield with 21-year-old Georgie Twigg already having a Commonwealth Games, World Cup and European championships behind her, while 22-year-old Susannah Townsend made her major tournament debut at the 2011 Europeans. Push caught up with them both at London’s Olympic Park.
It was only just over a year ago you came into the senior squad, now you are standing on the Olympic pitch talking to such a prestigious magazine like PUSH – is it all a bit unexpected?
My goal was to get into the central programme and to start training with the squad. So I can stand here and say, no I didn’t expect it, but I did feel at the time I was playing well enough. It is a different story with selection for London 2012 and that’s what my goal is! But it is incredible to think that this time last year I was just into the programme, now I am standing on the Olympic Pitch – it is hard to comprehend.
Before that, you went to Belgium to play in the 2009-10 season – what was all that about?
I went to Gantoise where the coach was the current Belgium coach Pascal Kina. He gave me individual coaching. I got touches on the ball every day and I lived just a couple of minutes from the pitch. In England at the moment it is improving – we are getting more club training sessions, there are more people playing and there is more money coming into our sport. But at that point in time I felt that I wasn’t playing well enough so I needed to do something different.
I was told to just work on core skills. It sounds very simple but just stopping the ball and v-drags, shooting at goal. Because I wasn’t yet in the central programme I wasn’t getting those touches that all the GB players were!
What’s it like being the new kid on the block?
You go into the squad and you are the new girl, but luckily I had been playing with most of the girls all my life – because hockey is, as they say, the hockey family, and everyone does know each other. I knew people from Canterbury and people like Georgie who were already in the squad. If people see you are pulling your weight and working hard, they welcome you.
Are you a full-time athlete now?
I have taken a year out of studying. Last year I was studying, finishing my second year of university. I found it very hard to manage to be able to give 100% to both [study and training]. That’s something I couldn’t do personally – other people can. I rent a house near Bisham with two other girls from the squad – Georgie and Dilly Newton. We can afford to do that because we are National Lottery funded athletes.
And the prospect of a home Euros in 2015?
For me I’m thinking – that’s perfect, I’ll be 25-26. I don’t know if you have a prime for hockey – but I will be more experienced and, pending results, there will still be a programme after these Olympics that can further my development and other players’ development too. People that aren’t in the programme now can look towards the Europeans in 2015 and say that is going to be their goal too – so it is perfect.
Are you noticing a surge in interest in hockey in this Olympic year?
Ever since our bronze medal at the world cup [in 2010] and then the silver medal at the Champions Trophy [in February 2012], with the BBC Red Button showing all the games in Argentina, the interest on Twitter and things like that is fantastic. More people are showing an interest in hockey and hopefully we can keep generating interest. That’s why having the Europeans here in 2015 is a fantastic opportunity to keep that interest going.
Do we have the hockey talent to keep the success going after London 2012?
We’ve got a great setup with clubs, junior sides and the England U16 and U18s, and there is some real talent coming through. They are going to be pushing for our positions! That keeps making sure everyone keeps working hard to improve their own individual performances, because you have all these youngsters coming through.
Are you already thinking past London 2012 then?
At the moment London is the primary focus but I think it is really exciting to be having the Europeans here in London. To compete twice in your home country at a major international event is a really exciting opportunity. Hopefully there will be more and more major events in England and we can keep generating that public interest.
The Olympics being held in London is such a tremendous opportunity and it is just so important that we keep that momentum going and we keep inspiring children to be playing at the grassroots level. Hopefully we can go out there and really show and prove ourselves and get that gold medal we have been working for, day-in day-out to get.
How do you fit it all in, club hockey at Clifton, international hockey, university at Bristol?
Hopefully I should graduate this summer! I was lucky enough to split my final year over two years which is great because I can do my study and still do all my hockey in my free time. It gives me a bit of balance. I’m very lucky I’ve been sponsored by Dick Lovett Mini and BMW in Bristol. That’s absolutely brilliant with the travelling I am doing.
What about the pressure of an Olympic Games?
You have to look at it in a positive way – we will have the home crowd with us – and take it as positive pressure. They will be wanting us to do well and they are going to be our twelfth man on the pitch. And, I think, we can’t escape that there will be pressure but we have to take it in our stride, embrace it and hopefully it will keep us all working harder.
So do you get mobbed in the street?
No! Maybe if I was wearing Team GB kit – but it’s OK at the moment!