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The Hockey Social: The day Zimbabwe won Moscow Olympic gold

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The Olympic Games has produced many great hockey stories over the years. Perhaps the best came 28 years ago at the Moscow Games, when teams were depleted and the IOC frantically scratched around following the western boycott in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979.

These were Zimbabwe hockey’s Games, with memories stirred following the passing of Liz Chase last month.

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Chase had formed a team which had just over a month to prepare for the Games after five teams had pulled out.

The Times obituary of Chase set the scene. “In what was surely one of the most bizarre starts to an Olympic campaign, the Zimbabwe women’s hockey team set off from Harare for the 1980 Moscow Games in an aircraft used to transport meat. They had to cope with the overpowering stench, strapped in like paratroopers down either side, their luggage piled up in the middle.”

Robert Mugabe had been in chage of Zimbabwe, now an independent country, for only three months when the IOC came calling. On their return, Mrs Mugabe promised each member of the ‘Golden Girls’ an ox as they finished atop the podium during a whirlwind two weeks in Moscow.

The team had never seen an artificial pitch before and initially didn’t have the right shoes. Soon they were invited to the Kremlin as officials and athletes alike clamoured to know their story and be seen pictured with them.

Their gold was secured with a victory over Austria. As Chase told The Times: “Zimbabwe didn’t even have its own national anthem,” she said. “They played the Olympic anthem, that’s all. But there was the Zimbabwe flag and we were all so proud.”

They never did receive an ox when they returned to public adulation. Sally Mugabe gave them a packet of meat each which Chase and the team found ‘hilarious’.

Chase became a lecturer in PE and a sports administrator thereafter. Her legacy, according to The Times, is a synthetic pitch at Wits, opened three years ago to the tune of £750,000, a figure she was instrumental in finding funds for.

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Young goalkeepers from around the country descended on King’s College, Taunton for the first of four exclusive camps held by MH1 Coaching, with Team GB Gold medallist Maddie Hinch on hand to watch drills and lend words of wisdom.

The former King’s College pupil gave expert coaching to all ages and even demonstrated the training tasks she undertakes to maintain her abilities as one of the world’s best between the posts. Before the day ended in a large group photo with all participants padded up.

Director of hockey, Clare Haynes said after the day’s events: “I came and watched the camp and it was amazing. What a great experience for all those goalkeepers!”

“It looked like they had loads of fun with lots of opportunity to learn. We were delighted to be able to host the camp here at King’s and our staff were pleased to be able to help with the coaching.”

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