England captain Hollie Pearne-Webb says she is still ‘hungry’ for more medals after winning a gold and a bronze at the previous two Olympic Games.
Pearne-Webb scored the winner in the shootout to seal a gold medal for Great Britain at Rio 2016 and then captained the side as they won a bronze medal in Tokyo.
Despite winning the biggest prize in hockey, the beginning of a new Olympic cycle with new players and a new head coach has given the 31-year-old a renewed enthusiasm as she prepares for England’s first game in the FIH Pro League on Saturday.
“I’m desperate to go on and try and get another Olympic medal. It’s more than that, though. I’m not just chasing medals. I want to be the best individual player I can be. I want to be part of the best team I can and I want to win matches,” she said.
“I am incredibly excited about this year and the years after that. I know I am going to be pushed by the youngsters coming through.
“The first few weeks back at training with the new players and the new coach have been great. As long as I still have that feeling in my belly then I will try and keep going for as long as I can.”
As it is a Commonwealth Games and World Cup year, the squad will compete as England rather than Great Britain as they did leading up to the Olympic Games.
That means Tokyo medallists such as Scotland’s Sarah Robertson and Welsh duo Leah Wilkinson and Sarah Jones are unavailable to new head coach David Ralph.
However, Pearne-Webb is excited by the opportunities presented to other players as a result.
“We have a brand new squad but we have to hit the ground running. It’s a perfect opportunity to try those new girls out and see where they fit and the combinations we have,” she said.
“It’s going to be hugely competitive for places which is only a good thing for our squad as a whole. Everyone just constantly has to try and be better. That’s the key thing, you know you are in a really good spot when selection’s always on the line.”
Head coach David Ralph, who spent the previous cycle as the assistant coach, echoes those sentiments:
“The new players in the group now have two or three months where some established players won’t be around. They will have a lot of international exposure and that should put them in a good place,” he said.
“Hopefully it’s not so easy for the players coming back to just slot in. Actually they may realise we’ve moved on while they’ve been away.”
England begin their Pro League campaign with two matches away against Argentina, the Olympic silver medallists and number two ranked in the world.
It’s a tough assignment for their new caps but Pearne-Webb wants to lay a marker down as England aim to build towards the World Cup in July – a tournament she has some unfinished business with.
In 2014 England went in as one of the favourites for a medal only to finish 11th out of 12 teams. In 2018, at a home World Cup, they lost to the eventual winners, the Netherlands, in the quarter-finals.
“The past two World Cups I’ve been involved in have been really disappointing” says Pearne-Webb.
“We want to go there and we don’t want just want to crash out. We want to try and push for medals. It’s a brand new squad so we’ve got a lot of work to do, but from what I sense so far I definitely think we’re capable of a medal.
“It’s definitely something on my wish list. It’s certainly going to be one of the biggest years in women’s sport.”