Saddleworth’s Nicola White is golden girl as GB win first ever women’s hockey gold

NICOLA WHITE became the nation’s heroine and Saddleworth’s golden girl at the Olympic Games.

RIO - Women's Olympic Hockey tournament Gold medal match: Netherlands - Great Britain Foto: Nicola White scored the 3-3, celebrating with Helen Richardson-Walsh and Samantha Quek. WORLDSPORTPICS COPYRIGHT FRANK UIJLENBROEK
Nicola White (third left) celebrates her goal with team mates. Picture thanks to Frank Uijlenbroek WORLDSPORTPICS

The 28-year-old helped create history as Great Britain women’s team won its first-ever hockey gold medal.

In a thrilling final of numerous twists and turns against Holland, reigning Olympic champions and world number one, White scored a late leveller to make it 3-3 and force the game in a shootout decider.

White, who had previously collected an Olympic bronze in London 2012 as well as Commonwealth Games silver and bronze, finally landed that elusive major crown.

The former Saddleworth Hockey Club player admitted there were tears of joy and relief at finally landing the big one.

She said: “This is what we dreamed of and now we’ve got it. No-one can ever take that away from us.

“It is the pinnacle and I know millions would have been watching back home. The fact the BBC changed the news for our game says it all.

“I don’t normally cry, but the fact that did is insane. I cannot believe the rollercoaster of emotions that has just happened. ”

And of her goal, White added: “Normally I don’t care who scores, but the fact I did so in an Olympic final is something I will remember that for the rest of my life.

“We needed to get an equaliser from somewhere and that was our stroke of luck, and I just managed to put it in.

“And when it went to shuffles (shootout) I backed us 100-per-cent and had faith we would win them

“We’ve won eight out of eight, created history and won the gold medal and I couldn’t be happier.”

“I can’t believe the game which was such a rollercoaster. It was end to end and played at such a fast pace.

“They gave it a good go and we had to soak up a lot of pressureWe always knew it was going to be very close but physically we stuck to it.

“We really put the legwork in to try and get them on the counter and get up the pitch.”

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Nicola White with her gold medal

White added she hopes their triumph will inspire people to take up hockey and that with hard work dreams can come true.

And of the Olympic cycle in which she was omitted from a couple of international events, she said: “The last four years have been so tough and there have been ups and downs, ins and outs.

“In terms of my own personal journey it has been hard as you find with a second Olympic cycle. There were days when I finished training and it was so hard that I thought I cannot do this.

“But for all the tears in training, you get a gold medal and it has made it all worthwhile.”

White added it was the happiest day of her life other than winning the first of her 163 international appearances.

She said: “You never know when it will end which is why you have to treasure every cap because you never know if it will be your last.

“I said it on the podium it is the happiest day of my life, bar the day I won my first cap which was a massive step.

“I never thought I would play for my country which was my wildest dream. I watched people playing international hockey and really wanted it so to get my first cap was really special.”

White had to put her celebrations on hold as she was selected for a post-match drugs test.

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Nicola, second right, and her team mates celebrate victory

The incident-filled match justified the BBC’s decision to delay the ten o’clock news because it was a gripping spectacle.

And it was to some degree a case of David slaying Goliath as Holland were unbeaten in 21 Olympic Games matches stretching back to the final in 2004 that they lost.

Yet, despite their dominance in the sport, England beat them in the final of the last final of EuroHockey, also after a shootout.

Holland could have gone ahead in the seventh minute when they were awarded a penalty stroke, but fearless goalkeeper Maddie Hinch saved Maartje Paumen’s shot.

Two minutes later the Dutch were made to rue that miss as Sophie Bray carved open the defence with some sublime individual skills. Although Joyce Sombroek saved the initial shot, Lily Owsley pounced to slot home the opener.

The second quarter got off to the worst possible start for Danny Kerry’s side. Kitty Van Male equalised from a short corner. Hinch and the defence were under immense pressure but despite the scare of a Naomi Van As thunderbolt coming back off the bar they stood firm.

Six minutes before the break, Paumen took an alternative route to goal and managed to beat Hinch with a low shot from a penalty corner.

The lead lasted moments as Giselle Ansley’s pass into the circle broke to Crista Cullen who slammed the ball past Sombroek.

Holland went 3-2 ahead early in the third quarter as pressure finally paid off with a well worked set piece allowing Van Male to grab her second.

The final quarter was charged with tension and drama and after some superb teamwork between the forwards, Kerry’s team forced its first penalty corner. The slip move found Laura Unsworth whose pass was half blocked but White showed terrific awareness to pounce and slot home the equaliser.

In the shootout the first two for each side were saved as Hinch and Sombroek showed why they are regarded as two of the world’s top keepers.

Laurien Leurink was denied by an incredible save from Hinch and then Sophie Bray was brought down by the goalkeeper on the next, resulting in a penalty stroke as Helen Richardson-Walsh showed nerves of steel to fire home.

A further miss apiece for each side meant it was down to Hollie Webb to win it, which she duly did for the brave Great Britain side.

 

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