IT WAS a Hockey Masters World Cup to remember for Olton HC as six of their players returned with medals to their name after numerous successes in England colours.
Three venues just outside Barcelona hosted this year’s event which proved to be the largest masters competition to date, featuring 135 teams from 25 countries.
The age categories went from over 35 to over 60 and Olton had representation in three England ladies teams (O35, O40 and O50) and a manager with the O50 men.
With the temperature in Spain being unusually high, it was going to be tough for all of the England teams to perform, but they stormed through the tournament as the new category of O35s had the impressive record of making the final unbeaten and having conceding just one goal.
Three Olton representatives – Jenny Pritchard, Rachel Ferguson and Laura Collins – faced Australia in the final with this team and the trio bagged gold as England’s dominance was rewarded with a 1-0 victory in the showpiece game.
The O40s also put in an impressive display. Featuring Olton’s Lucy Aldred and Kerry Thompson-Moore, the team were a force to be reckoned with and were unfortunate to lose their semi final 2-1 to a well-drilled Australian side who were defending champions.
However, with a bronze medal to play for against the Dutch, they fought hard to come back from 2-0 down and draw level at 2-2 with less than two minutes remaining thanks to Thompson-Moore assisting on two penalty corner goals.
In the dying minutes, whilst the crowd were thinking about penalty shuffles, England sealed a dramatic victory and bronze medal team thanks to a fantastic breakaway goal after a heroic penalty save at the other end by England keeper Becky Frater.
England O50s with Olton’s Mandy Gatherer as player-coach, also experienced disappointment in their semi-final. Despite several comprehensive wins in the lead-up, they were disappointed to concede a scrappy goal to Australia which put them out of gold medal contention as they were beaten 2-1.
However, with a bronze medal still to play for at the prestigious Olympic Stadium, England had just one more game to make it count against a strong Scottish side.
Change pays off
After conceding to the Scots early on, England were staring at fourth place as the time ticked away until a vital structural change with six minutes left swiftly paid off and they equalised just two minutes later.
Again, the crowd thought penalty shuffles were on the cards but, such is the pace of the modern hockey match, England were able to once again score in the dying moments when Olton guest player Linda Webb took on the keeper and fired the ball home to give England a 2-1 win and a bronze medal.
Two other Olton guest players – Caz Hurst and Mel Linnell – featured in this team.
Olton HC ladies chairman Helen McLeod said: “It is a fantastic achievement to have six medallists and even more amazing that they are still playing at such a high level, no matter their age. We are very proud.”