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Fresh faced women’s hockey Team to vie for Rio gold

4 July 2016

HOCKEY: The women’s hockey section of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team is hoping the fresh talent of 12 debutants will be the key to securing Olympic gold in Rio.

With only four returning Olympians, the side will largely rely on Olympic rookies to bring enthusiasm and excitement to the pitch as the team looks to claim top spot on the medal dais.

With over 350 international appearances, Australia’s most capped female hockey player, Madonna Blyth will lead the Team in her third Olympic campaign.

The Rio Games will be the 30-year-old’s second experience at captaining the side and she feels she has a lot of more experience under her belt this time around.

“It’s obviously a privilege and special every time that I lead the girls out onto the pitch, but at an Olympic Games it’s even more so,” Blyth said.

Blyth says she’s well aware of the amount of fresh faces on the 2016 hockey Team and that it is important for them to make the most of the occasion and not let it overwhelm them.

“A lot of different things happen around the Olympics so it’s important not to let the pressure get to them and to enjoy the overall experience.

“It’s great to have more experienced members of the team there who know what to expect, who can help prepare the girls for Rio.”

Joining Blyth in her third Games campaign will be Casey Sablowski, who was the youngest player at the Beijing 2008 Games. The pair will be supported by London 2012 Olympians Emily Smith and Jodie Kenny who will line up for their second Olympics in Rio.

Brooke Peris, Edwina Bone, Gabrielle Nance, Georgina Parker, Georgina Morgan, Grace Stewart, Jane-Anne Claxton, Karri McMahon, Kathryn Slattery, Kirstin Dwyer, Mariah Williams and Rachael Lynch will all make their Olympic debut.

Despite Rio being her first Olympic appearance, for goalkeeper Rachael Lynch this selection has been years in the making after she missed selection on the London 2012 Team.

“It’s been my dream to go to the Olympics for such a long time, and after ten years of hard work and the disappointment of missing out the last time it was such a relief to see that I had made the team,” Lynch said.

Lynch said Australia’s overall success at the Olympics has inspired her to keep pushing for her own chance to call herself an Olympian.

“Not just past Hockeyroos and Kookaburras teams, but other sports like water polo, the montage scenes of teams winning at the Olympics; that’s the feeling I’ve been chasing.”

Joining Lynch on the debutant roster is 19-year-old Grace Stewart who will be Australia’s youngest hockey player at the Games.

Seeing her name on the selection list was a surreal moment for Stewart.

“I was in shock and I had to double check it was my name and when it was, it was pretty amazing,” said Stewart who is both nervous and excited to make her Olympic debut.

“We have a big three weeks of training ahead, and it will be pretty full on but it will be worth it knowing it will help us go better over there.”

For head coach Adam Commens picking the 2016 Olympic Team was the toughest the selection panel has seen in recent Olympic history.

"In the end we have selected a fantastic group of players that are all in fantastic form,” Commens said.

“To win Olympic medals it's important to have in form players that are also on the improve. We have this throughout our Olympic selection of 16 and I'm excited by our prospects in Rio."

Australia's women head into the first South American Games as world number 3, and will compete in Pool B against Argentina (#2), Great Britain (6), USA (7), Japan (10) and India (13).

Competition starts on August 6 and will feature a new format. The top four from each of the two pools will progress to the all-or-nothing quarter-finals as each team pushes towards the gold medal match on August 18.

These 16 athletes take the overall 2016 Australian Olympic Team to 270 from 22 sports, with an expected final Team of around 410 athletes. Complete biographies on all selected athletes here>>>

Ashleigh Knight
olympics.com.au

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