On the brink of the Paralympic Games, I'm appreciating this exciting event without any of the pressure and nerves I felt on the day of the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics just a few weeks ago.
It's very easy to look back on the Games with rose-tinted glasses with bronze medal in hand. However, the journey for the hockey team was a tough one. We lost our Captain, Kate Walsh, with a broken jaw in the first game. Kate has captained the GB hockey team for more than a decade, but apart from the obvious significant loss to the team, watching a friend exit the field with such a serious facial injury and returning to the village without her, was a hard start.
Kate underwent surgery and returned to the field six days later, with a number of plates in her jaw. The decision was made not to call a reserve into the team so we played the next two games with a player down in the hope that Kate would return, which she thankfully was able to do.
The support we received during the Games was magnificent. It's hard to appreciate fully when you're in the bubble of a performance tournament, but we felt it. The 16,000-seater Riverbank Arena was a phenomenal atmosphere to play in, full of loud, passionate, excited GB supporters. This was to play a huge part in the success of the games.
We have experienced semi-final losses in major tournaments before, but accepting that we were not going to realise our dream of Olympic Gold was the hardest part of the tournament. The night after the semi-final loss to Holland was a long one. Having just 24 hours to re-assess the aim we set out with as a squad four years ago felt like a mountain to climb. The truth is we never trained to try to win Bronze, so turning our focus to the Bronze play-off was a huge struggle. At the first whistle of that game though, I knew every single player was ready and I knew we weren't leaving the Olympics without a medal.
And since then has been a blur of friends, family and celebrations. The freedom to relax and have a drink or a late night is quite novel, so the girls have been able to let their hair down a bit. It has been good to thank the people who have helped us on our journey too, especially UK Sport and UK Lottery players who have funded our training program.
At our training venue Bisham Abbey there are a handful of Paralympians that we train alongside in the gym. We are lucky enough to have tickets for the Paralympic Closing Ceremony and I'm also hoping to watch the blind football as it is held at the Riverbank Arena, where special noise barrier walls surround the pitch to help the players hear the bell within the ball.
I am excited to support our Team GB athletes and enjoy the event from a totally different perspective. The paths that these athletes have taken to these Games make us as athletes appreciate our situation. As a disabled person in the UK there are still day-to-day barriers to deal with and I think it's important that we appreciate these incredible athletes, their determination and talent, and back them the whole way.
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