Lights, speed, reaction! Spain women’s coach Adrian Lock hailed EuroHockey 2019 goalkeeper of the tournament Maria Ruiz as the hardest-working athlete he knew as a first medal at the Euros was gleaned in 16 years.
Spain women beat England 3-2 in the tournament’s only shoot-out last summer as they matched their world bronze in Antwerp and Lock said that Ruiz’s mind set to be the best she can be with limited funding was one of the many stories in a team which continues to make strides on the global scene.
To improve her skills between the posts, the 29-year-old and her engineer boyfriend – her brother, Alberto, is also Spain’s goalkeeper coach – were forced to created a homemade device to help her hand speed and reaction, complete with LED lights and circuit board as they worked on peripheral vision.
“She is the most demanding person ever and hardest-working,” said Lock. “She is always really demanding of herself and us on finding ways to get better. We don’t have a budget and it’s finding ways to overcome the obstacles.
“It’s about resilience. You have to work even without money. She has to make her skill to train and study at the same time.”
Ruiz made plenty of world-class saves during the Euros to help Spain to their first Euro women’s medal in 16 years, while the men also won their first medal in 12 years after reaching the final against the hosts.
“It’s such a short competition that there are no second chances with a slip up,” added Lock.
“There are no margins and probably the toughest competition that we play.
“Each player sets the standard and everyone sees the effort each other is putting in.”
Asked how far this Spain side can go, Lock added: “As long as we keep that desire to improve and make ourselves better players and better people, the sky is the limit.
“We are pretty consolidated in that top five or six in the world and can compete there and belong there.”