HOCKEY HISTORY: Unsworth first GB player to win three medals
PA Adam Davy
Hockey history-maker Laura Unsworth was left pinching herself after winning a third Olympic medal as Great Britain’s women beat India in an epic bronze medal match.
Unsworth, 33, became the first British male or female hockey player to capture three Olympic medals – bronze in London and Tokyo, and gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
While Britain could not replicate that Rio triumph, a 4-3 victory over India guaranteed another podium finish.
“To be honest, it probably is up there with the Rio gold medal,” she said.
“The things we have had to overcome as a team, people don’t know about. As a squad, we stuck together. We have been resilient – we fight.
“You don’t really think of that when you are an athlete (three medals in successive Games).
“If someone told me when I first started playing hockey when I was 11 that I would win three Olympic medals, I would have just looked at them and said: ‘you what’?”
When it was put to her that her feat might become a future quiz question, she added: “Or a Pointless answer.
“Winning medals, you kind of get addicted to it. You forget all about all the lows, and all you remember are the highs.”
Unsworth hopes to be part of England’s Commonwealth Games challenge in her home town of Birmingham next summer.
She also had short shrift for Tokyo hockey finalists Holland, who branded Great Britain as arrogant following the Rio success against them when they triumphed 5-1 in Wednesday’s semi-final.
“It is an interesting one because they say all these comments and they say, I don’t know, that we are arrogant,” she said.
“But obviously, we are in their heads. I am not sure why they waste so much time, if they don’t think we are that good, speaking about us. It does spur us on a little bit.
“They have been very good this (Olympic) cycle, they are probably the number one side.
“Do I think the gold medal in Rio was a fluke? No. We beat them in the Euros the year before. If that is what they want to think, that’s what they can think. We will keep coming back stronger and stronger.”
Although the Rio 2016 champions relinquished their title following an emphatic loss to the Dutch, they dug deep and secured a third successive Games podium finish.
They led 2-0, then fell behind before winning it in the final quarter with Grace Balsdon’s penalty corner clincher.
Ellie Rayer opened the scoring, then Sarah Robertson made it 2-0, only for India to score three times in four minutes during a frantic second quarter, with Gurjit Kaur netting twice and Vandana Katariya also hitting the target.
Captain Hollie Pearne-Webb equalised in the third quarter, before Britain showed composure to go back in front and close out a fine victory that sparked scenes of wild celebration.
Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, who saved four penalties during a shoot-out in the Rio Olympics final against Holland, said: “It feels just as good (as Rio). It’s hard to put into words, just because of the (last) five years. I can’t tell you how tough it has been at times.
“It would have been very easy to crumble, given we had a really terrible six minutes and let them back into the game, but the belief was there with this group and we deserved it.”
The 32-year-old remains an integral part of Team GB plans, and she added: “I’ve had some pretty low moments since Rio.
“I put an awful lot of pressure on myself, but the one thing I said to myself coming here was that I would enjoy it, whatever happens, and I feel I have done that.
“I think I have found my love for the game again recently, and it is about not looking too far ahead.
“If I still feel I can contribute to this team and help them win medals, I will be there (Paris 2024), but I have got to start looking after myself more and make sure I am in a good place all the time.”
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