Credit Simon Parker
Marlow’s Sam Ward, who was partially blinded in one eye after being hit in the face with a ball, has been included in England’s squad for the 2021 EuroHockey Championships which gets underway in the Netherlands today (June 4).
Ward is one of several players from the area to have been selected for England’s men’s and women’s squads, with the men’s team set to face reigning world champions Belgium and 2019 runners-up Spain in their group.
Maidenhead’s David Ames has also been included in the men’s 18-man squad, while former Claires Court School student Ellie Rayer, and Maidenhead’s Shona McCallin and Maddie Hinch have been selected for the women’s squad.
With World Cup qualification on offer for both teams, the men will begin their tournament against Russia on Saturday (June 5), and the women play their first match against Italy on Sunday (June 6)
Ward tweeted that he was ‘buzzing’ at the prospect of pulling on the England journey again, adding that it was a huge honour to be selected.
He suffered severe retina damage in November 2019 when he was struck in the left eye by a ball travelling at around 50mph while playing in an Olympic qualifier against Malaysia. The impact of the blow shattered his eye socket and caused seven facial fractures leaving him effectively blinded in one eye.
The 30-year-old thought his career was over, but last year he returned to the sport and scored on his comeback game for club side Old Georgians, something he described at the time as the ‘greatest moment of his life’.
He now hopes to convince the Tokyo Olympic Games selectors he can still compete at the highest level despite his visual impairment. His stats are difficult to ignore, with Ward having scored an impressive 72 goals in 126 appearances for England and Great Britain.
Earlier this month he was also named as the recipient of the FIH Super Fair Play Trophy, Rene G Frank award.