Hockey ace Nicola White reflects on trials and tribulations on Olympics journey

Nicola White was determined to be a champion. The only issue was deciding which career path was best suited to fulfilling her ambition.

Nicola White in action at Rio 2016

A talented dancer and runner, the Oldham born red head, nicknamed ‘Scholesy’ by university pals in deference to Paul Scholes, chose hockey.

White, who honed her skills as a youngster with Saddleworth Hockey Club, already holds a bronze medal from London 2012 when she was one of Great Britain’s youngest players.

Now she’s 60 minutes away from polishing up the precious medal into gold as Great Britain’s women take on Holland in the Olympic women’s hockey final on Friday night.

But already the sacrifices she’s made to get to the top of her chosen sport are paying off.

She’s seen friendships drift apart, gets little chance to visit her Saddleworth based relatives and only occasionally updates her social calendar all for the sake of her hockey career.

“After London, I went back to Loughborough to finish a Sports Science degree but it was so hard,” she explained.

“I had forgotten what it was like to be a student. I kept thinking ‘what do I do?

“Then you start another four-year Olympic cycle and it was like ‘this is going to be tough.’

“Because the game is so fast these days, you’ve got to be fit and you’ve got to be strong so it puts your body under a lot of strain. 

“I lost friends because I couldn’t get back home perhaps as much as I wanted due to full-time training, club and international commitments.

“But I know it will be worth it if I can become a double Olympic medallist. That’s all I have wanted to achieve. 

“Yes, I might have lost a few friends but you make new friends and your life changes. It is not really a sacrifice when you have achieved something like that.”

The GB landscape has certainly changed since White joined the programme in 2009, when becoming a recipient of National Lottery funding for the first time. 

“For two Olympic cycles we have had full funding to allow us to train every day and not to worry about working on the side. I wasn’t part of the Beijing cycle but funding was a lot less and some of the girls had other jobs while playing.

“The funding now is enough to be solely focused on hockey if you want to. It’s made such a difference.

“Everything at Bisham Abbey, where we are based, is there to make up a world class programme: physios, nutritionists, psychology guidance, video analysts.”

White, however, knows nothing lasts forever and already has tentative future plans.

“It is always in the back of my mind ‘what am I going to do when I retire? Am I going to go into sport? Will I do something completely different?

“So, I am planning things slowly, trying to get experience ready to make the transition if at any point I want to. That’s the sensible thing to do so at least I have got a decision to make rather than being totally in limbo.” 

White though is still a novice compared to her “incredible” skipper, Mancunian born Kate Richardson-Walsh.

“Everyone listens to every word Kate says,” confirms White. “She is a household name and inspires so many people.

“If anyone can mention a hockey player, they would say Kate Walsh. When she is not there, you feel like there is something missing.

“But even though she is a world class player she still works so hard and takes nothing for granted.

“Everyone would love to be a name people can mention. But as long as I do myself proud when I am playing and help the team to the best of my ability, I will walk away proud regardless if whether I have won 100 million caps.”


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