Sam Quek‘s future in international hockey will be determined on how the Great Britain gold medallist deals with jungle life over the coming weeks.
That’s the view of her boyfriend, Tom Mairs, after the bubbly Liverpudlian started out her bid to win ITV’s I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here at the weekend.
Quek was only confirmed as a contestant on the hit reality show last week, as the 28-year-old followed past Olympians’ Fatima Whitbread and Rebecca Adlington Down Under to experience celebrity tantrums, creepy crawlies and the infamous Bushtucker trials.
“She was very excited and optimistic,” Mairs, 30, told The Hockey Paper. “She will be up against a lot of big personalities and she will want to win.
“You would have to be an idiot to back against her. Like Great Britain when they went 2-0 down against the Dutch in the Olympic final, I was thinking ‘okay, let’s keep it respectable, 2-0 against the world champs is not bad.’ So we can never write the team or her off again.
“It’s her personality that got her there and hopefully that will shine through in the jungle.”
Like the rest of the GB women’s squad, it has been a whirlwind few months for the 28-year-old. The Holcombe defender has regularly appeared in the public eye after having previously decided to take time off from the sport. Gold in Rio, says Mairs, has given his girlfriend the chance to sample the spotlight.
And even though she didn’t score the winning goal against the Dutch, the picture of Quek – who missed out on London 2012 – leading the rush towards her team-mates following the shoot out drama was one of the defining images of the Games.
“It was her raw emotion, she wasn’t guarded [in interviews], and the nation seemed to fall in love with her,” revealed Mairs, who owns a successful student property company in the Wirral.
Quek was subsequently forced to sign up to a management agency as the offers began to flood in after Rio. She has appeared on radio stations, endorsed products and featured in programming for Liverpool FC’s television channel.
She has also been a fervent supporter of the NFL’s recent forays to London and her on-pitch appearances have kept her in the spotlight as ITV producers became drawn towards her outgoing character.
Quek was given an extended break by Danny Kerry, the GB women’s coach, to take part in the show and the couple will gauge her commitment towards another Olympic cycle when she returns to the UK before Christmas. Mairs will be a key cog in any decision after he motivated Quek as she recovered from a rib injury in the build-up to Rio selection.
“They all have to audition for their jobs again and it will be a mix of what Sam wants and whether she has the hunger,” added Mairs, who was one of Team GB’s most prominent cheerleaders in Rio thanks to his array of different costumes.
“She has won Commonwealth silver, European and Olympic gold and you’d have to say what is there left to go for?
Danny is an astute tactician and maybe he won’t want these off-field distractions. Whatever happens, she will respect what is best for the team and what the team wants.”
Mairs will travel out to Australia in the next few days, while he admitted that Quek‘s participation in the jungle was an “unbelievable opportunity to promote the sport”.
He added: “You will potentially see some hockey references, although she didn’t take her stick as a luxury item!”