Hello and Happy New Year!
I am writing this first blog of 2012 from our hotel in Eindhoven at the European Championships. We have finished the tournament having moved up in the European rankings to seventh, the highest we have ever been. We were hoping to break into the top six but we have had some very competitive matches against the top teams in the world so we have to be pleased with that.
We started the campaign off in Dusseldorf for a few days of training (fighting!) with the German team. I spent most of the time watching from the side, frustrated, while nursing an injured knee. For a while it was possible that I might be flown home instead of carrying on with the team to Eindhoven. Thankfully, the strict rehab plan prescribed by our brilliant physio (I had to ice my knee every 2 hours even through the night!) worked and the swelling went down enough for me to be taped up to play. So, by the time we checked into our gorgeous hotel in Eindhoven the knee was fine and we faced Hungary in the opening match.
Playing Hungary is always a big challenge for us and we let them slip away with some easy goals. Next up we had the Russians and their unstoppable counter attack! Despite this we managed to keep within three goals of them until the final minute when we made a a couple mistakes on attack that were instantly punished at the other end. The final score was still a respectable 15-10.
The last match in our pool was against reigning Olympic Champions, The Netherlands, and their 2000-strong home crowd. The atmosphere was incredible and it was exciting to think that soon we will be playing in front of crowds even bigger than this and everyone will be cheering for us, not against us! We were right in the game and only down by one goal (5-6) at half time, but the Olympic champs were too good for us on this occasion and the final score was 12-6.
This meant our play-off match was against our old friends, the Germans. We had beaten them in the training matches two weeks earlier but we knew it was going to be a close game, and we were right… tied 10-10 at the end of full time. Going into extra time, though, we were confident because the Germans had clearly slowed down throughout the match, while our three months of fitness training was standing us in good stead. We went ahead by three goals in the first three minutes of extra time, scoring on every attack. Germany netted one last goal but the final score was 13-11 to us, moving us up to seventh in Europe.
Tomorrow we return to Manchester for a few weeks of training before we head off to Australia for a training camp. We hosted the Australian National Team in Manchester a couple of years ago so it’s now their turn to return the favour, and a good excuse for us to get out of the freezing UK winter! We will be staying at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra which has incredible facilities. The Aussies are consistently in the top four teams in the world so this will be great preparation for us!
I’m off back to the pool now to watch the Men’s semi finals. The talent of these guys is impressive!