England’s Suzy Petty is expecting a “huge” rest of summer of hockey as Olympic qualification ramps up.
A GB squad has finished preparations in Japan to test weather concerns and came away with indifferent performances from their matches with the Japanese national team.
Now they will turn their attentions to playing as an England squad ahead of the EuroHockey Championships, with Wednesday marking exactly one year to go until the Tokyo Games.
And Petty knows the task in hand. “It is a real pressure to qualify and that’s why I don’t really like talking about it,” Petty told British media. “We don’t have any other opportunity to qualify. It’s either the European Championships – if you win that, you go – or it’s this Olympic qualifier match.
“We haven’t had a chance to qualify yet, so we’re going out to the Euros to win. If we don’t do that, though, we have to go to the next step. It’s huge. There are two matches back-to-back, Saturday then Sunday, and whoever wins goes.”
Petty added that England were going for gold in Antwerp next month, the winner being guaranteed a berth for Tokyo and afforded the luxury of bypassing the pressure cooker environment of the Olympic play-offs in the autumn.
“It has been tough, we’ve had our challenges and we have had a change of coach, but with a year to go we know what we need to do,” she told the Daily Mail.
“We haven’t had the best results over the last six months. But we now know what the one per cent we need to change is.
“We are going for the gold, but we know it is going to be really tough and we have a lot of work to do.”
Failure to qualify for Tokyo 2020 will likely mean GB Hockey’s funding will look bleak for Paris 2024.