It shouldn’t take much for any athlete to find motivation six months away from an Olympic Games, especially not if you’re a defending champion, writes Ella Jerman.
Just ask Lily Owsley. One of the seven Great Britain hockey players remaining from the Rio 2016 gold-medal winning team, the striker knows better than most the sweet feeling of satisfaction when hard work comes to fruition.
But the road to retaining their title has been a bumpy one so far for Owsley and Great Britain, who were forced into having to beat Chile in a last-chance qualifier in November to secure their spot on the plane to Tokyo after a dismal FIH Pro League campaign where they won just three of their 16 matches.
Their recent form may be poor but with the Tokyo Games looming ever closer, the expectation continues to weigh on the defending champions – but that’s a feeling Owsley wants her new-look team to embrace, whether they’ve already got Olympic gold hanging on their mantelpiece or not.
“It’s like a drug, I guess,” said Owsley. “The feeling of winning Olympic gold is such a high and we’d do anything to get that drug back.
“Obviously, there’s loads of talk about us being the defending champions but I don’t think we should be seeing it in a negative way. The title is still ours right up until the Olympic final and the pressure is on someone else to take it from us.
“There’s not many of us left from that team but the few of us still here are saying to the others ‘Trust us, we want to do that again’.
“It’s the easiest thing to stay motivated for. If anyone isn’t motivated with the Games happening in just under six months, then you’re clearly not doing the right job.
Just 1⃣ week to go until we are back in #FIHProLeague action 🤙— Great Britain Hockey (@GBHockey) January 25, 2020
Who else can't wait? 🙋♀️🙋♂️ #ThePride🦁
In the meantime why not secure your seats for our home fixtures by securing your 'Hockey Family Window' tickets ➡️ https://t.co/aDSqh3mRsl pic.twitter.com/rR2WjjSyDq
The Tokyo preparations are ramping up now for Great Britain, who play their first games of the new FIH Pro League season against Australia this weekend, before flying to Auckland to face New Zealand the next.
And according to Owsley, success in the southern hemisphere will stand her side in perfect stead for the Games.
“When it comes to the Olympics it’s all about confidence and momentum and that’s what we’re gunning to build now,” she added.
“There will always be some reservations about hiding things from certain teams we are facing in our group, but at the end of the day, it’s Olympic year and we’re out there to get the mental advantage.
“If you go into the Olympics having beaten someone 3-0 in the FIH Pro League, they’ve got those memories looming over their heads and you’ve got the ammo to get on top of them.
“I love playing against Australia and New Zealand. Their levels of competitiveness and physicality is exactly what we need to step up to over the next seven months. If we can compete with them, we can compete with anyone.”