England Bronze “like winning Olympic Gold”, says Townsend

Susannah TownsendGreat Britain, England and Canterbury hockey star Susannah Townsend has likened England’s bronze medal at the recent Investec Challenge in South Africa to winning the Olympic Gold medal.

Despite losing all three group games, to hosts South Africa, eventual winners the Netherlands and Commonwealth champions Australia, and their semi final against the Dutch, England surprised the Hockeyroos on shuttles in the 3rd/4th playoff.

“We were down with two minutes to go and you could think we were down and out at that point,” she told BBC Radio Kent.

“I mean, we hadn’t won a game in this tournament and we’re losing with a couple of minutes left.

“Our coaches were looking for who had that fight in them.

“The amount we celebrated was like we’d won Olympic Gold. For the group of girls, it was quite an achievement, especially against Australia, who still had a lot of senior players in their team.”

She added: “We do see it as a success.”

The Investec Challenge was the first major international tournament for some of the country’s best players and represented a chance for those who didn’t make Team GB to prove a point with the selectors watching on.

Just days after returning from the southern hemisphere, the central contracts for the following four years were announced by Great Britain Hockey, adding extra incentives to play well.

“We had to perform,” Townsend explained. “If you performed badly for five games, you slip down the pecking order.”

Fortunately, the EuroCanterbury skipper, 23, was one of those to be rewarded, although the manner in which she found out was worse than receiving her A-Level results.

“You don’t get anything done all day,” she continued. “You just sit there pressing refresh and then a Groupon message comes through.

“It’s horrific! You’d rather get your exam results.

“Some people got theirs at seven, others at half nine. I ended up thinking it wasn’t coming through.

“It was a massive relief. Now i can finish my degree and continue training hard on the World Cup and Rio 2016.

And it’s the future that sports science student at the University of Kent can now focus on, dividing time between Bisham Abbey and her home just outside the cathedral city.

Townsend took plenty of confidence from the South African adventure.

Although they suffered four defeats from five games, eight uncapped players journeyed south for the first time and Townsend believes the leadership and confidence in the latest generation of internationals was unprecedented.

“The youngsters in that team did speak and stepped up,” she continued.

“I’ve found in previous cycles that youngsters sit on their hands in the corner, whereas with this group, everyone played their part and everyone spoke.

“I wasn’t telling them anything tactically. Talking off the pitch I do do, but on the pitch I leave nothing behind.”

Townsend’s next task is to lead her EuroCanterbury side into Europe for the first time in five years.

Currently, top of the table with just four games remaining, few would bet against another feather in her ever expanding cap.