Shona McCallin: 'Pulling on Team GB shirt ignites something in you'

The experience of competing at the Tokyo Olympics will stay with Shona McCallin for a very long time and, despite the lack of crowds at matches and COVID restrictions, she said it was still a thrill to pull on the Team GB kit.

It was different to previous Olympic Games, and she and her teammates didn’t have the same freedoms they enjoyed in Rio five years ago, but there was also great joy to be had in the Olympic Village and she said Team GB

athletes were made to feel very welcome throughout their stay in Japan.

The hockey team were one of the first to enter the Village and one of the last to leave, seeing other athletes come and go as their events finished, but although they were there for a long time, they also had a very good time, and, most importantly, came home with a precious medal after beating India 4-3 in Friday’s bronze medal match.

“It was different,” she said. “But once we were there, I felt super safe and comfortable with it all.

“Every time you pull on the Team GB t-shirt it ignites something in you, and you realise that you are there for the Olympics.

“On a separate note, the people of Japan who we did meet, the volunteers or the people who lined the streets and waved signs and flags, they were just incredible and enthusiastic. It was a great joy to be around them and to experience the little bit of Japan that we were able to. They made us feel so welcome.

“The heat was a big factor, but we knew it would be and planned and prepared for it. We had tents set up where we were exposed to the same heat and humidity in Tokyo and would cycle in them for an hour and a half. That was invaluable and huge thanks to the English Institute of Sport for all of their work. It certainly helped against India when it got up to 42 degrees.”

McCallin is now looking forward to some time off before leaving Maidenhead at the end of the month to play competitively for a team in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. She’ll have some Maidenhead friends for company, however, with fellow Maidenhead Hockey Club coaches Phil Roper and David Ames set to join her in Eindhoven.

She said: “I’m now looking forward to a bit of time off to rest and recover before I go to Holland at the end of the month to start my domestic season there.

“Myself, Phil Roper, who also coaches the Maidenhead Ladies 1sts and 2nds are going to the same club in Holland, along with David Ames who coaches the men’s team.

“Coincidentally we’re all off to the same club so it will be a little Maidenhead reunion out there. I’m sure lots of the team will come and visit us all, both from the men’s squad and the women’s squad.”

At 29 years of age, she’s young enough to still be in contention for Team GB’s Olympic squad for Paris in 2024, however, for now she’s not looking further ahead than next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Hockey World Cup.

After that she’ll reset her goals and consider whether she’s able to put herself in contention for a third Olympic squad, having won gold in Rio and bronze in Tokyo.

“I’m not looking that far ahead,” she said.

“I’ve got my eyes set on next year, which is the home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and then the World Cup. They’re the two major competitions.

“I think then I’ll reset my goals and think about how I feel then.

She also believes this young GB women’s team can now stamp their authority on world hockey, much like the Dutch team have done in recent years.

“GB women’s hockey have won medals at the last three Olympics, and won another bronze in 1992,” she said. “That’s a decent number for the women’s team and we have a lot to thank UK Sport and National Lottery Funding for that.

“We started as a full-time programme in 2009 and since then we’ve had fantastic results at the Olympics.

“After an Olympics there’s always a lot of transition. This was a much-changed team, with quite a few retirements, but the players that came in were all super exciting and bought into the culture of GB hockey.

“I’m excited to see how they grow in the next few years and hopefully they can stamp their authority on world hockey over the next couple of years.”

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