Rio 2016 gold medallist Nicola White announced her international retirement from hockey on Monday night – with an emotional statement surrounding the concussion that forced her to quit.
For all the elation in Rio when Team GB’s women won hockey gold with 10 million watching on TV, the flipside was the post competition lull – multiple retirements, while in 2020 semi-final double goalscorer Alex Danson called it a day owing to concussion-related injuries.
For Hampstead & Westminster’s White, 33, after a life-changing concussion in March 2018 when she hit her head on a player’s shoulder during a friendly against Ireland and then spent 20 months toiling to return to the fold, the decision was made for her in November 2020 when GB Hockey did a u-turn, effectively ending the forward’s hopes of reaching Tokyo.
“My head injury and subsequent prolonged recovery have been the hardest years of my life,” White, who made her debut in 2009 and racked up 186 caps including winning bronze in 2012, wrote on Twitter.
“But I never gave up hope I would play hockey again,” she added, having been removed from the GB programme in December 2019 as she was told “the door remains open” for a potential return.
White did return for Hampstead & Westminster in August 2020, a proud moment in her career, but the joy was short lived after an international return was ruled out.
“The support I once enjoyed from GB Hockey disappeared and by consequence, I have been given no opportunity to be reconsidered to reclaim the place I held in the programme for 10 years.
“What is bewildering is that, just seven months before this decision (in November 2020), I was given a return to play for rejoining the programme towards Tokyo 2020, which I couldn’t wait to begin.
“The subsequent news that the Olympics were delayed by a year gave countless opportunities to see if a return was viable through a variety of means available.
“Since then, despite my physical readiness to rebuild and optimistic outlook regarding what could be achieved, I have been denied any form of fitness test, hockey trial, rescheduled return to play, or any objective targets by GB Hockey.
“I was simply informed last summer that they had changed their minds and that they wanted no further conversations with me.”
Former Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan voiced her support for White on Twitter as did former teammate Jennie Bimson.
White said she would now pour her energy into coaching, inspiring future generations and ensuring athletes’ mental and physical health is prioritised.
“Although I now suffer the consequences of my head injury, I am committed to address and highlight those issues that rose with GB Hockey in an effort to endeavour to improve the care for myself and the safety of others.
“I am proud that I acted throughout with passion, transparency and integrity.
“It may take some time to fully appreciate my career given this bitter ending. However, I know deep down the gratitude and pride that sits inside and the powerful impact hockey has had throughout my life, which I am sure will continue.”