NICOLA White’s dream of competing at a third Olympic Games is over after she has been removed from Great Britain Hockey’s centralised programme.
The decision was taken in the wake of the former Saddleworth Hockey Club player’s ongoing recovery over the last 20 months from a concussion injury.
It means Nicola, 31, will not have the chance to compete in Tokyo where Team GB will be defending the gold medal won at Rio.
Nicola has opened her heart on Facebook about her struggle to recover from the injury which was sustained in March 2018 following a collision with an opponent in a friendly international against Ireland.
She said: “The last 20 months have been the hardest and most soul destroying of my life after suffering concussion during a friendly international match from which I am still trying to recover to full health.
“Sadly, there has now been a decision made to remove me from the GB centralised programme. I am hugely disappointed by this, but I am determined to overcome my injury.
“Both my specialists support that my return to fitness is a matter of when, not if, and although regaining my health has been in the forefront of my mind for such a long time, the goal of making it back for Tokyo 2020 has been incredibly important to me.
“I never imagined my injury would be so prolonged or debilitating, but head injuries can be complex to manage and throughout this recovery I have done my utmost to try and get back to the level needed for international hockey.
“However, due to the severity of chronic symptoms and pain, it’s not been possible to reach the deadline set for me.
“On a positive note, I am continuing to make progress and I am pleased to hear the door is open for when I do make a full recovery.
“There’s lots to look forward to gaining back in my life, especially being symptom free and I am remaining hopeful for next year if things continue to progress as they are. I do not believe that this will be the final chapter of my playing career.”
Nicola, a key member of the England and Great Britain’s women’s teams since making her debut in 2009, has won 186 England and Great Britain caps, scoring 17 goals and winning 14 medals in her international career.
She is also one of a handful of British women to have won two Olympic hockey medals, having scored three goals on the way to gold in Rio – including in the final – after being part of the side that won bronze at London 2012. Her successes also included a dramatic European gold medal for England in 2015 as they beat the Netherlands in the final following a shootout.
Great Britain Hockey, in a statement, said: “Unfortunately, Nicola has not been able to play since suffering a concussion in March 2018 during a friendly against Ireland.
“The past 20 months have been incredibly challenging as Nicola has continued to work through her concussion and associated symptoms.
“We are hugely appreciative of the extensive and wide-ranging medical expertise from our partners at the English Institute of Sport throughout this time.
“Nicola’s own wider network has been hugely supportive during a very challenging time and we would like to place on record our gratitude for that. Looking forward, the door remains open for Nicola to return in the future.”
Ed Barney, Great Britain Hockey’s performance director, praised Nicola: “Everyone at England and Great Britain Hockey has huge admiration for the way in which Nicola has approached the past 20 months.
“Her concussion has been incredibly tough and she has continued to persevere, fight and do everything within her power to recover. We have done our best to support Nicola and will continue to do what we can over the coming months.
“We are sad that the time has come to make a decision about her participation in the central programme, but we hope that she’ll be back out on a hockey pitch as soon as possible.”
Danny Kerry, Nicola’s coach for eight years, added: “I was fortunate to work with Nicola for a long time, and her two Olympic medals, World Cup medal and multiple Commonwealth and European medals are testimony to the playing qualities that she brought to the team.
“She brought fast hands and an excellent innate understanding of where to position and lead. Nicola was also a real character within the team, a quality which I will always remember. I wish her all the best for her future, and I hope our paths will continue to cross.”
The statement concluded that Great Britain and England Hockey wish Nicola the very best in her continued recovery.