The Tokyo Olympics start this Friday after being delayed a year by COVID-19, and SWLondoner is previewing all the athletes to watch from on our patch – continuing with the hockey players.
The Team GB women’s hockey team followed up a superb bronze at London 2012 with their first ever Olympic gold in Rio in 2016.
The team sport has been a part of the Olympics for over a century and GB have secured four golds in the event over that time.
South west London is home to Surbiton and Wimbledon, two of the elite hockey clubs in the country and SWL profiles the members of the women’s and men’s hockey teams that were either born in or have played in the area.
Ex-Surbiton midfielder Hannah Martin is not the first Olympian in her family. She’s not even the first hockey playing Olympian in her family.
But she’s hoping to be the first medal winner. Brother Harry Martin was part of the men’s hockey side in both London 2012 and Rio 2016, but they failed to medal on both occasions.
Martin, however, is making her Olympic debut and looking to help defend the Olympic gold her side won in 2016.
The 26-year-old played for four years in Surbiton before following many of her compatriots in moving to the Netherlands this season.
Picking up a hockey stick for the first time in Year 4, Martin has now got four years international experience and 77 combined England and GB caps under her belt, as well as a European and Commonwealth bronze.
There are few members of the Team GB hockey team as decorated or as valuable as captain Hollie Pearne-Webb.
The 30-year-old, who will be skippering the side at Tokyo having taken over as captain of both England and GB in 2018, has nearly 200 combined caps under her belt.
As well as a gold medal from Rio 2016, where the Surbiton defender scored the decisive penalty in the shootout to seal victory, she has Commonwealth and European successes under her belt.
The qualified accountant was named Player of the Tournament as England secured a bronze medal at the 2017 European Championships, as well as being part of the team that won the Euros in 2015 and finished second in 2013.
She also has two Commonwealth medals: a silver from 2014 and a bronze from 2018.
Much like Martin, Anna Toman made her England and GB debuts in 2017.
Also much like Martin, the 28-year-old Wimbledon defender, who has 91 caps under her belt, has bronze medals in both the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games to her name.
And, much like Martin, Toman comes from a sporting family, as her father was a Gaelic footballer and her mother played hockey for the Northern Irish civil service.
Toman will have a point to prove after trialling with Team GB in 2015 but missing out on being selected for the Rio Olympics, and was only able to watch as the team defeated the Netherlands in a shootout for gold.
One of Team GB’s most experienced campaigners, defender Giselle Ansley is one of a number of the squad hunting back-to-back gold in Tokyo.
Ansley is another player who has a plethora of medals under her belt, with European gold, silver and bronze and Commonwealth silver and bronze from her time with England.
More than a one-trick pony, Ansley is an avid-cricketer and also loves to kayak, alongside 165 combined appearances at international level in hockey.
The Loughborough University graduate’s other great skill is in baking, and as well as owning her own bakery business, she’s also in charge of making birthday cakes for the rest of the Team GB squad.
The 2019 Hockey Writers’ Club Women’s Player of the Year, who spent eight years with Surbiton before moving to the Netherlands this season also has a pitch named after her at Plymouth Marjon Hockey Club, where she played for four years as a teenager.
Surbiton captain Sarah Evans is south west London through and through.
Born in Wandsworth, going to school in Kingston and going on to play lead Surbiton hockey club, who won seven straight league titles, Evans is a talented midfielder with over combined caps since her first England appearance in 2013.
However, the 30-year-old did not feature at Rio 2016, and may not appear in Tokyo, as she was only named as a reserve for the tournament.
Evans has a Commonwealth and European bronze medal to her name, and was one of the star performers for England at the 2018 Hockey World Cup, in which England finished sixth after losing to eventual winners the Netherlands.
The housemate of female counterpart Ansley, Ansell is another talented cricketer when he isn’t plying his hockey trade with Wimbledon Hockey Club and of course England and Team GB.
The ex-Surbiton forward, who made his England debut in 2017, shone at the 2018 World Cup where England finished fourth, and was part of the Commonwealth Games squad that secured a bronze medal in the same year.
The 27-year-old from High Wycombe has 17 goals in his 53 combined caps and will be looking to make an impact on what is his first Olympics after a difficult couple of years with injuries limiting his international opportunities.
Having lived in the same house as an Olympic gold medallist, and seen an Olympic gold medal in the flesh, there’ll be no doubt that Ansell will be as motivated as anyone to bring home a first men’s Olympic medal since 1988.
The story of 26-year-old Surbiton midfielder James Gall could have been very different.
With 88 combined caps since 2017, a Commonwealth games bronze and multiple league titles with Surbiton under his belt, the Surrey-born player has had a successful career, which he’s hoping to continue in his first Olympics in Tokyo.
However, any thoughts of competing at Rio in 2016 were stopped by a freak accident that occurred at Surbiton in 2015, as Gall slipped and fell 15 feet through a skylight.
A fractured skull, a fractured spine, an induced coma and a week in intensive care were the consequences, but Gall, who claimed he was lucky to survive, has battled back all the way to the top of international hockey.
A medal in Tokyo would be the icing on the cake.
Phil Roper has joined the Dutch revolution, ending eight years at Wimbledon Hockey Club, a stint that included four league titles.
The 29-year-old has been part of the international set up for those eight years, winning two Commonwealth bronze medals in 2014 and 2018, and a European bronze in 2017.
The forward has a collection of 38 international goals from his 154 combined appearances, including an absolute stunner against Malaysia in the 2019 Olympic qualifiers.
Despite co-captaining Team GB and England between 2017 and 2018, this will be Roper’s first Olympics and he’s hoping to make a real impact.
Less than two years ago, Rupert Shipperley was yet to feature for Team GB, and his full-time job was as a geography teacher at King’s College School in Wimbledon.
But the former-Surbiton player, who now features for Hampstead & Westminster, gambled his future on hockey, and seems to have won.
The 28-year-old forward quit his job and decided to pursue a place on the full-time GB programme, making his Team GB debut in February of 2020 and securing an Olympic spot.
Despite having to wait for a GB call-up, Shipperley has plenty of international experience, with more than 70 caps for Wales, and guarantees Welsh inclusion in the men’s hockey team for the first time since 2000.
Despite a promising rugby career being dashed by injury, Shipperley is another player with hockey in his blood, as his sister Zoe won a Commonwealth silver medal with England in 2014.
Ian Sloan has an impressive hockey resume, even before you consider that both of his parents were Irish internationals, and that his brother plays hockey.
The 27-year-old Northern Irish midfielder has played for Wimbledon for seven years winning four successive league titles, played international hockey for Ireland, England and Great Britain, and has also coached the sport.
After playing for Ireland as a teenager, Sloan declared for England and GB in 2013, and after three year out of international hockey, made his GB debut in the run-up to Rio, where he made his Olympic debut.
Now with over 100 caps for England and GB, as well as Commonwealth and European bronze medals, Sloan was also co-captain of the teams between 2017 and 2018.
One of the more inexperienced members of the Team GB squad, defender Tom Sorsby will be hoping to continue the positive impact he’s made on the international circuit.
Since making his debut in May 2019, Sorsby has clocked 39 combined caps, appearing at the 2019 European Championships for England and helping Team GB qualify for Tokyo.
The Surbiton player, having played beforehand for the University of Nottingham where he got a 2:1 in history, is also a social media consultant.
He works for a company that is both run by and for elite athletes, of which he will be one as he steps off the plane in Tokyo.
Having grown up in south London and schooling in Kingston and Croydon, it was seemingly inevitable that Zach Wallace would play for Surbiton Hockey Club.
However, the 21-year-old winger is off to pastures new, joining many of his Team GB teammates in the Netherlands after six years at the club.
The Junior European silver medallist, who has already clocked 55 caps for GB and England since debuting in 2018 despite his young age, has long been flagged as a future hockey star.
And nearly three years into his international career, Wallace is showing that he’s no longer a future star, but one for the here and now.
He’ll be hoping that he can prove that in Tokyo.
Another exciting and talented young player, Croydon’s Jack Waller is another one of south London’s finest to join the hockey side in Tokyo.
The former Wimbledon defender, who moved to the Belgian league this year, clocked four years at the club either side of university, where he won the 2018 BUCS Championship with Durham.
The 24-year-old is another to make a big impact in a short space of time, also clocking 55 caps since making his debut alongside Wallace in October 2018.
After scoring his first international goal against Belgium in late 2020, Waller, who went to school in South Croydon, is hoping his international career will explode at Tokyo.
One controversial decision made by coach Danny Kerry is the decision not to pick English club hockey’s most prolific forward over the last five years with Surbiton: Alan Forsyth.
Forsyth, who was only named as a reserve for the Tokyo squad, has scored 101 goals in 189 combined appearances for Scotland and GB, but his omission means that for the third Olympics in a row, there’s unlikely to be any Scottish involvement in the men’s hockey team.
Forsyth, who was another to leave Surbiton this summer to move to the Netherlands, is the son of Scottish head coach Derek Forsyth, and has been playing for his country since 2009.
However, the UK men’s hockey player of the year 2018 didn’t make his GB debut until 2015, and has made just 51 apps for Great Britain.
It looks unlikely that number will increase at Tokyo.
You can read the rest of SWL’s Tokyo Olympics coverage, including the rest of our preview profiles here.
Featured image credit: REUTERS/Matthew Childs