Sarah Evans is hopeful she can be part of a successful year of hockey, both for Surbiton and for Team GB.
Wandsworth-born Evans attended London 2012 as an aspiring athlete, before she made her international debut the following year.
Despite being part of the Team GB set-up three years later, she missed out on being part of the 18-player squad which won gold at the last Olympics.
Surbiton captain Evans said: “When I was a young girl, that was always my big dream, to play in an Olympic Games.
“Rio was disappointing for myself, but great for the girls that went. Seeing them be so successful gave me an extra drive and determination to be on the plane myself this time around.”
Evans captains a Surbiton side with several internationals, which helps with the camaraderie as they practice during the rain.
Evans said: “We’re doing pretty horrible intense training sessions at the moment. But when you look around and you know you’ve all done it together, it has that extra special feeling to it. Those are the things that are going to count when you get out there at the Olympics.”
Surbiton, who last week won their seventh consecutive league title, was where Evans fell in love with hockey as a 10-year-old, and she still loves her home club now.
Although Evans admits: “It doesn’t hurt when you’re winning titles. We’re very competitive people, but we have a balance between taking it seriously and having fun at the same time.
“For us Team GB girls, hockey is our job, so we always take it seriously, but for the girls with jobs in London who rush to get to training, it’s their choice to do it in their free time. It’s their hobby and there has to be a sense of fun for them. We have a great balance within that. You can see that when we play.”
Evans moved to Surbiton a couple of years after falling for hockey, and now lives there with her husband and fellow hockey player Scott Evans.
However, she enjoys returning to where she grew up.
Evans said: “It’s nice going back and travelling through Barnes, reliving those childhood memories, driving down an old road which now seems tiny. When I was little, it seemed huge. It’s a beautiful place. I just love being around south west London.”
That love made it all the more difficult for the Liverpool fan to miss last year’s internationals at Twickenham Stoop through injury.
Evans said: “Sport has been an important part of my life, and I’ve been to Twickenham many times. Lots of my friends from school live in Twickenham so it feels like part of home.
“It was such a spectacle having a hockey pitch in that stadium at the Stoop. I was able to walk around between the games and bump into so many people I know. It’s great the amount of support we get.
“It’s such a testament to where our sport has come to and we’re able to play these big events. It’s great we can replicate it again after a good response to last year.”
She’s eager to take her opportunity to play when Pro League matches return to the Stoop in May.
She said: “To be able to go out and play hopefully this year would be amazing.
“We’re playing Argentina this year, which will be an amazing game. The Argentinians are a fantastic team. Hopefully there will be some really good hockey on show and it will be a great event.
“Every time you step out and you wear the badge, it’s such a proud moment, whether we’re training behind closed doors or in front of 20,000 people at the Stoop. We cherish each moment and we hope we can do it for as long as we can.”
Another thing Evans cherishes is Winnie, her black Labrador with an Instagram account, @tails_of_winnie_mae.
Evans said: “She’s about nine months now. She’s great. She’s really nice to have as – not a distraction, but time down away from training, to be able to switch off from hockey and have her as a companion. I love looking at other dogs on Instagram, so I thought if she does something funny, I’d put it up there.”
Despite wrapping up the league title early, there’s still more for Surbiton to achieve this season.
The first weekend of April features a league play-off semi-final at home, before hopefully a final the following day at Lea Valley.
Four days later, Surbiton face Germany’s Der Club an der Alster in the quarter finals of the inaugural Euro Hockey League Women, which take place in the suburbs of Amsterdam.
It is the first time that women’s club hockey has been treated with the same respect as the successful men’s tournament, and both Surbiton’s men and women are involved this year.
Evans said: “It’s a really crucial two weeks for us as a club.
“Although we’ve won the league, we have lots to improvements to do and games to really look forward to.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum, play well at playoffs, then lead into the European competition over Easter.”
Evans expects a physical test for the club as they come up against a side full of German internationals in front of a European crowd passionate about their hockey.
She said: “When you’re have those extra opportunities to play against these players for your club, then you’re learning every time you play, you’ll figure something else about them. When you face them at the Olympics, you have as much knowledge of them as you can. That really helps.”
Evans has a lot on her hands, but it’s the way she wants things after spending several months out injured earlier this season.
Evans said: “It will be a busy time, because then when we get back from that, the international Pro League starts again. Then it’s all go-go-go until the Olympics. It will fly by but it will be really enjoyable.
“Hopefully it all goes well and it can start off our successful summer of hockey for Great Britain.”
Feature image shows Surbiton’s Sarah Evans on international duty. Photo credit: England Hockey