Maddie Hinch chose the perfect moment to make a name for herself.
9.5 million British viewers tuned in to watch Team GB take on the Netherlands in the women’s hockey Olympic final in Rio. The match was tense, finishing 3-3 in normal time before heading to a penalty shoot-out.
It was here that Hinch became an Olympic heroine; the Team GB hockey goalie saved four Dutch penalties to clinch gold.
Despite being obscured by extensive body armour and a protective face mask for most of her Olympic campaign, Maddie says that people now recognise her in the street. So short-term fame aside, what’s it really like to have an Olympic gold medal around your neck?
Read on as Maddie opens up about claiming the gold medal:
- “I actually didn’t feel the pressure; it was a bit weird”
- “I can’t get my head around what this all means”
- “I think it’s the start of something really special for hockey”
THE RED BULLETIN: Congratulations on the win. Have you processed it all yet?
MADDIE HINCH: It’s definitely still a bit of a dream. I can’t get my head around what this all means. When we landed at Heathrow and saw the amount of people on the runway there to see us, let alone in the airport, it made it really hit home. We’d taken ourselves off social media, so we didn’t really have any idea of the buzz that was building around the team generally when it was looking like we might do quite well.
The build up to the final was huge. We were lucky with the timings of our game – 9pm on a Friday night back in the UK was mad. To see the impact we’re having on hockey as a whole – people want to find out how they can go and play. That’s literally the most important thing for us because I think it should be the start of something really special now for this sport. It’s a hugely participated sport anyway – it just needs to grow.
How did you and the team celebrate?
The first night they rented out a hotel rooftop and we got to meet all our family and friends up there, which was really nice. Then a few of us cracked on through the night. We had media from 6am the next morning, so we missed an entire night’s sleep. But you’re only there once and I wasn’t going to go to bed – there was loads going on.
You saved all but one penalty in the final. That must have been intense – what was the pressure like?
I actually didn’t feel the pressure; it was a bit weird. I enjoy [penalties] and we’ve had a lot of them. Straight away the first thing I thought was that the Dutch had been through this just last summer with us at the Euros and lost to us, so I’d much rather be in my camp than theirs, because they would have been overthinking it. I just remember thinking, ‘I’m not going to spend the next 20 minutes worrying and being so nervous that I can’t enjoy it’, so I relaxed and stuck to my plan. I was OK as long as I kept looking at the girls and didn’t look at the crowd and start thinking, ‘Oh my god, maybe the whole nation’s watching this right now’.
It’s amazing how, if you get yourself in the right mindset, it just kind of happens. I don’t really know what I’m thinking, I just naturally crack on. If you get in the goal and start thinking, ‘Shall I do this, shall I do that?’ it won’t do anything for you. That’s why I literally can’t remember anything, it’s all a blur.
How did you prepare mentally for the tournament?
We do a lot of work with our sports psychologists about those kind of moments and it’s about you being at your ‘A’ game and what that looks and feels like. You imagine what you would look like if someone is looking at you. So that’s why I talk about the swagger thing – apparently when I’m on it, I look like I literally own the D, just waddling around. When I’m not on it, you can tell; I look a little nervy and on edge, and so we do a lot of work on that. I had also done a lot of work on the opposition and had come up with plans for each player. If you’ve got a game plan, then you can’t really ever have any regrets. If it works, great; if it doesn’t, fair play to them.
I heard that you wrote notes on your water bottle during matches – what kind of notes were they?
I had some keywords that I wanted to remind myself of that day. So I had ‘relax’ – sounds simple but it just reminds me of what that should feel like. I also had ‘stay big’ – I just wanted to be a big presence and try and carry myself well.
What does this win mean for women’s hockey in the UK?
For hockey in general it should be absolutely huge – and women’s sport [as well]; those are the two things that this should really impact. I think it’s the start of something really exciting for us. I hope that it will encourage a lot of people to go and pick up a hockey stick, because it’s really easy to do. We have HockeyFest happening across the country, where clubs open up their doors to let people come in and try it. All people have to do is check out the details online and find their local club, get down there and pick up a stick. That’s all I did thirteen years ago.
You’ve been inundated with media and TV requests since returning, even ‘I’m a Celebrity’ want a piece of you. How do you think your life might change now?
I’ve got to make the right decisions on what’s right for me, because I’m still very much in the early stages of my career – I could do two more Olympic cycles if I wanted to. So I need to decide what the really good options are. ‘I’m a Celebrity’ is an interesting choice… Whatever pops up and spreads the word about the game is the main thing. Long may it continue.
What’s next for you? We hear you’re moving to Holland…
Yes! The league starts in a couple of weeks, so I’m back into it very quickly, but I’m excited. I’d rather go into it in pretty good shape than have a big break and not do a good job there.
Holland is the best league in the world for hockey. Players from around the world want to test themselves in that league. I think the standard over there will really help me improve my game. They’ve got a lot of the drag flick specialists. One of the girls who drag flicked for Holland against me [in Rio] is in the club, so if we can train with her three or four times a week, that’s going to help.