The golden glow of this summer’s Olympic Games stopped off in Long Sutton as hockey medallist Crista Cullen shared her knowledge with young players.
Crista, 30, part of the Team GB women’s squad that won bronze at London 2012, came to Long Sutton Hockey Club on Saturday and Sunday when she conducted a junior training session for young stars in the area.
But the lure of Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro has brought Crista back to the sport after a three-year retirement during which time she set up her own fitness business in Kenya, helped protect the elephant population and gained her pilot’s licence.
Crista said: “In April 2015, Danny Kerry (GB women’s hockey coach) contacted me and enquired about whether I’d be interested in competing for a place at the Olympic Games.
“It was quite out of the blue and my response to him was ‘let us (Great Britain) qualify first and then we’ve got a decision to make’ which they duly did (after winning the European Champion-ships last August as an England team), playing very well.
“With the EuroHockey Championship success, why wouldn’t you want to get in and amongst it for the European gold medalists, having beaten the world number ones (Netherlands) and us having a realistic chance of medalling?
I’m just like all the other 28 (hockey) athletes in that I’ve got to stamp my authority on the position and make sure that I do the businessCrista Cullen
“I didn’t want to kick myself, watching the Games in Rio and thinking ‘what if’? so I put myself back in the mix.”
Crista, originally from Boston, is bidding to be selected for her third Olympics in a row after London 2012 and Beijing 2008.
“From a physical perspective, I’m not overly concerned and it’s just about making sure my touch clicks at the right time,” Crista said.
“I did have three years out but my touch is coming back and I’ve started to be the player I used to be.”
Team GB’s preparation for the Olympics, which starts in Rio de Janeiro on 5, suffered a setback when they came seventh in the eight-team World League Final after a quarter-final defeat to New Zealand in Argentina last month.
The tournament marked Crista’s comeback to international hockey and, immediately afterwards, she put the British’s team performance in Argentina down to a “culmination of errors”.
“An Olympic Games is a very special thing to be considered for and to get a third crack at it is no mean feat,” Crista said.
“I don’t take the decision very lightly at all, but I’m just like all the other 28 (hockey) athletes in that I’ve got to stamp my authority on the position and make sure that I do the business - if I’m lucky enough to represent Team GB.
“We’ve got gold medal-winning aspirations and the fact that we got the gold medal at the EuroHockey Championships proved that, in finals, we can deliver.
“It’s a very exciting position to be and we are genuine contenders for those spots on the (medal) podium.”
For more coverage plus photographs from the junior masterclass, don’t miss Thursday’s Spalding Guardian