Everyone may know someone who has been touched by tragedy by the time the coronavirus epidemic is over. This includes Hollie Pearne-Webb, Great Britain women’s hockey captain. “It’s made it all very real,” she says.
In normal circumstances, Pearne-Webb would be preparing for the resumption of the Pro League, a clash against Holland at the end of the month no less. Instead, she is currently keeping fit in her garage, has signed up for the NHS volunteer scheme and assisting her village having been assigned a pod by community volunteers.
Further, she is looking to finish her accountancy exams before the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, all this while keeping up with the GB women’s squad on Zoom. Who knows, she may even sit down to watch the Rio final for the first time if the BBC re-run that golden night in full in the coming weeks.
Pearne-Webb, of course, was the last player to shoot in anger at an Olympics and – despite Tokyo being delayed by one year – she is now the first to admit that she hopes to become a triple Olympian.
“I never had plans to retire post-Tokyo,” she tells The Hockey Paper. “It’s hard to say as you don’t know how you will feel but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the end. A home Commonwealth Games is a huge draw, there is a World Cup as well and an Olympics in Paris three years after this one.
“Who knows, but I can’t see myself retiring. I still have the love for the game and the drive and determination to achieve more. As long as that’s there, I don’t want to stop.”
Pearne-Webb will be 30 in September and admits to being in the “lucky” position of following in the captaincy footsteps of Kate Richardson-Walsh, then Alex Danson. “Kate was my captain for four years and was phenomenal in her job,” said Pearne-Webb, who outside of hockey works part-time for Defra, the government’s environment department.
“I never thought during that time that I needed to watch her carefully because maybe I will be captain [one day]. I never thought that. But it was more admiring the role she played in that while Alex led in a completely different way but was a huge leader that everyone respected.
“It’s hard to compare yourself and you can’t do that with those two players. But both of them have said they are always there, along with Helen [Kate’s wife].”
Judging by GB Hockey’s recent documentary on their Olympic qualification journey, she has further proved herself as a pivotal leader. In a segment where Pearne-Webb spoke to the group as Hinch recorded her 50th GB cap, her calm and measured qualities shone through as she told Hinch: “You are a leader in how you act and what you say.” It was a buoyant speech for a colossus at the heart of GB’s defence.
Yet, she says she is still learning. “You learn as you go on. No one is ever perfect and as an athlete you always want to get better with goals and targets. Being a captain and leader is exactly the same thing. You self evaulate and I do so even more now.”
During the lockdown phase, she believes that the team, one of the few nations to spend the majority of the working week together, will become an even tighter unit. “At Bisham you are so busy you go through a whole session without speaking to anyone and you don’t take time to have a chat and ask people how they are,” she says.
“Over the past 18 months, we have seen how we have gelled with a young group. This will help us get even closer and time to gel. We made a huge step up in January in our Pro League games and the Olympics postponent can work to our advantage.”
With the GB players readjusting their plans and waiting for the schedule over the coming months when life reaches normality once again, there is one common bond entwined in the group.
“It’s a challenging time, we have the same goal and it’s just about readjusting our plans,” she adds. “I’m not the only one volunteering, loads of girls have in our group. It puts things into perspective. We love sport but there are bigger things out there at the moment.”
Pearne-Webb had been keeping to the same structure as if Tokyo was four months away, just tweaking the volume sessions, having added a turbo bike in her garage.
She borrowed weights from Bisham and undergoes core circuits for bodyweight, with 1 minute exercises, seven seconds off for 10 rounds and the same with hamstrings and ankles. A typical session would last 30 minutes.
She also does single leg squats without weights and purchased bands off the internet for squats and glute exercises.
“The emphasis is on well being,” she says. “It’s all about being healthy and we aren’t at a point where we are pushing performance gains. For me, it’s about getting the circuits done so when we go back to full-time training I will be strong and don’t pick up niggles.
“Then it’s about cleaning out the garage to hit a ball around and kettle bells become little obstacles!”