Published: 07:21, 06 August 2021
| Updated: 10:00, 06 August 2021
Grace Balsdon has had to watch on as Great Britain’s women’s hockey team won bronze and then gold at the last two Olympics but now, she has joined the illustrious club.
The 28-year-old from Canterbury played a starring role as GB came out on top in a thrilling encounter with India, coming from behind to win 4-3.
And it was Balsdon who delivered the final blow, a drag flick from a penalty corner to complete the comeback, capping a remarkable journey.
Playing alongside Canterbury team-mate Susannah Townsend, Balsdon said: “It means everything. I pride myself on my penalty corners. We've worked hard on our penalty corners and for it to pay off like that, it was a dream come true.
“It’s unbelievable. I went and watched the 2012 Games and was part of the squad in Rio, but not playing.
“Coming into this squad this year, we knew we had it within ourselves if we dug deep and played to our strengths, we'd make it. To get three medals at three consecutive Olympics, it's just incredible. A special legacy to be a part of.”
It is an historic achievement for the women’s hockey team, the first team sport in more than a century to win medals at three consecutive Games.
But they did not do it the easy way despite a strong start. Goals from Ellie Rayer, turned in by India defender Deep Grace Ekka, and Sarah Robertson had allowed them to open a 2-0 lead, but India fought back with three goals in just four minutes. Navneet Kaur scored twice in quick succession from penalty corners before Vandana Katariya put India in front just before half-time.
GB looked shell-shocked, but strong words from coach Mark Hager had their effect and in the second half they turned it around with a rare goal from skipper Hollie Pearne-Webb, followed by Balsdon’s winner.
And after everything the team has been through, it was a mixture of elation and relief for the entire team.
Balsdon added: “We're extremely, extremely happy. We've worked incredibly hard since coming back from time off during the pandemic. That hard work, all the heat chambers work we did before coming here, being together every day.
“You can see how much it means to us and how much we wanted it for each other. It's an unbelievable feeling and a slight relief that all that hard work has paid off. We've managed to get a medal and it's an incredible feeling.”
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