Lily Owsley helped Great Britain secure gold in Rio last summer
England face the Dutch today almost a year on from Great Britain’s dramatic Olympic success in Rio.
It was one of the iconic moment in Brazil last year as Maddie Hinch’s heroics in goal secured a penalty shoot-out win in the gold medal match against Holland.
A lot has changed since then with a number of players – most predominantly Kate Richardson-Walsh – hanging up their sticks.
But Owsley thinks the new players can take England to the next level and finally topple Holland as the no.1 side in the world.
England face Holland in the Investec Internationals at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park having lost to Argentina yesterday.
But today’s match brings more significance being against the world’s number one side and the team that GB beat to earn gold in Rio.
With the core of the GB side coming from England it marks something of a grudge match but Owsley believes the new-look squad is on the right path.
Lily Owsley received an MBE following the Olympics success
Lily Owsley with Prince Charles receiving her honour
“We were always going to have to start again,” she told Express Sport. “That’s the nature of our program.
“We kind of restart every four years, because after the Olympics there’s new trials, new retirements so that’s just how it goes.
“We’ve had some big losses, Kate in particular, which is going to be hard, but the talent and hunger of the new ones is immense, there’s so much talent and raw natural ability in this group.
“It’s young and inexperienced but I think it has so much potential.”
Owsley has gone from the baby of the group to one of the more experienced – despite still being just 22 – and she’s now joined by a number players who she came through the youth ranks with.
And, having enjoyed the success of last summer, is keen to take England to top spot in the rankings.
“Holland are still world number one, but we’re getting very, very close,” she said.
Lily Owlsey and her team-mates at the London Stadium
I would love to be part of the team that’s number one ranked in the world that shows that you haven’t just done it over one tournament
“We’ve bridged a big gap after the Olympics and Europeans and we’ve had the better of them over the last few years but their history and consistency makes it seriously tough to knock them off that top spot.
“For me that’s the huge aim, I would love to be part of the team that’s number one ranked in the world that shows that you haven’t just done it over one tournament, you haven’t just got a couple of lucky wins, that shows that you are consistently the best team.
“For me that would be the ultimate achievement and we’re really close. Technically they’re still favourites but we’re both very different teams.”
English hockey has taken giant strides since last summer with 10,000 new players joining clubs since Rio and BT Sport taking on the broadcast rights to become the ‘home of UK and Irish international hockey’ for two years.
“We had visions for last year: create history, which we did by winning in Rio, inspire the future, which was all about putting hockey on map and making hockey a sport that matters, and it’s definitely happened,” Owsley said.
“Since the Olympics it’s been amazing – still people are talking about it. And I think it’s just the start, I think it’s going to keep going and we’re going to be a big part in that and trying to keep pushing it.
“Ultimately if you’ve got international success that’s what people get behind and that’s our job.”
Lily Owsley meets Usain Bolt during the Olympics
Owsley says the reaction to last summer was ‘like a bombshell’ with the players under a social media ban until after being awarded their gold medals.
They had no idea the exposure and recognition they were receiving and it was beyond anything from their wildest dreams.
In the aftermath they’ve had invites to parties, premieres and sporting events, they’ve been on Jonathan Ross, they’ve been awarded MBEs. Owsley’s met her heroes – Serena Williams and Usain Bolt – and they’ve become house-hold names.
“We hadn’t given it two thoughts what it might be like after,” she said.
“All that mattered was winning and taking it game by game. We were on a social ban during the games so we had no idea of the impact it was having and then honestly it was like a bombshell that exploded when we went back online and got home.
“It went a bit mental. Everyone loved it. It’s the first time hockey’s been appreciated and it really mattered and people were so excited about it and that was amazing and some people like Kate, absolute legends in sport not just hockey, got the recognition they deserved.
“It was unbelievable. It was not something we thought would happen or even hoped for, but it’s still going on and on and we’re getting invited to these things and I’m thinking ‘why am I invited to that’.”
England face Holland in the Investec International Series on Sunday 11 June 2pm live on BT Sport 1.