Rio gold medallist Shona McCallin is refusing to think about Tokyo ahead of this weekend’s last-chance Olympic qualifier against Chile, writes Alice-Reeves Turner.
The 27-year-old was part of the gold-medal winning side at Rio 2016, a side which only have five representatives in the team that will play at Lee Valley this weekend as Great Britain fight to secure a place at Tokyo 2020.
Due to newly introduced two-match qualifiers, if Great Britain fail to beat Chile this weekend, their hopes of returning to the Olympic games, and of defending their historic title, are over.
But for McCallin, the qualifier isn’t about reminiscing Rio - or looking forward to Tokyo. She will be treating the match like any other fixture, and she is urging her teammates to do so too.
She said: “For me this weekend has nothing to do with Rio, it’s just about beating Chile.
“I try not to think about the result from Rio too much because it scares me a bit and you can get a bit overwhelmed thinking about it.
“I don’t really look too far in front either, currently it's all about beating Chile. When that hopefully happens, my focus will be all about getting myself into the 15 and then there's loads of other tournaments before the Olympics.
“Obviously I would love to go to another Olympics, it's why we all play. The Olympics is the most prestigious competition, but it’s too far in the future to dream and think about right now. Currently it's all about Chile. It's all about this weekend, and then we will look to next year.”
Photo from June 2017 = the last time I played at Lee Valley. Nearly 2.5 yrs on I finally get to be back on home turf in an international game 👌❤— Shona McCallin MBE (@SMcCallin) October 26, 2019
Beyond excited (& slightly nervous) to get out there next weekend with the girls and try and qualify for the Olympics 🇬🇧🏑 pic.twitter.com/KhY5KLQEgG
McCallin has only recently returned to the hockey pitch having been out for the last 17 months with concussion and a knee injury.
She got a taste for what it was like to return to international hockey in this summer’s EuroHockey Championships, but the preparation for this weekend’s Olympic qualifier has been her first proper stint back in the Great Britain set-up since February 2018.
She added: “I hadn't really trained properly before Europeans, so this has been my proper training block of hard work and it’s been really nice just to know what it's like to be fully back in it.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders to be back training and to not be injured and not worrying about being injured. It really refreshing because I haven’t had that in a while.
“It’s the first time in a year and a half I’ve felt properly fully fit and know nothing is holding me back. I feel like I’ve got my fitness back. I feel sharp on the pitch and I’m personally really looking forward to being back out at Lee Valley”
“I haven’t played here for two and a half years. I’m really looking forward to the weekend and feel really confident.”