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Golden girl Townsend relishing Investec Internationals

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 June 2017

Susannah Townsend gets away from Netherlands duo Maartje Paumen and Naomi van As at the Rio Olympics (pic Frank Uijlenbroek/England Hockey)

Susannah Townsend gets away from Netherlands duo Maartje Paumen and Naomi van As at the Rio Olympics (pic Frank Uijlenbroek/England Hockey)

Frank Uijlenbroek

Team GB star ready to face Argentina and Netherlands

Susannah Townsend holds off Argentina's Gabriela Aguirre at the Rio Olympics (pic Koen Suyk/England Hockey) Susannah Townsend holds off Argentina's Gabriela Aguirre at the Rio Olympics (pic Koen Suyk/England Hockey)

Great Britain hockey star Susannah Townsend is hoping to hit the ground running once again when England host Argentina and the Netherlands at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in the Investec Internationals this weekend.

The 27-year-old was one of Team GB’s golden girls at the Rio Olympics in Brazil last year, but since then Townsend has had to bide her time after undergoing surgery for a cartilage injury on her left knee.

Townsend made her long-awaited England return in the recent three-match series against Spain in Madrid, and despite losing the series 2-1, Townsend was mightily relived to be back fit and playing.

“It was good for me after being injured for nine months,” she said. “It was my re-integration back into training and matches which was quite nice.

Prince Harry meets the GB women's hockey team, including Susannah Townsend on crutches after their Olympic gold medal success at the Rio Games (pic PA) Prince Harry meets the GB women's hockey team, including Susannah Townsend on crutches after their Olympic gold medal success at the Rio Games (pic PA)

“Playing two matches against Spain was good and although we lost the three-match series it didn’t really show how well we were playing. We made a number of strides as a team.

“I didn’t feel the injury either, which is promising. It was the first international hockey I had played for some time so it was just nice to be back with the girls again.”

The team will now face the toughest of tests when hosting the top two in the world at the London 2012 Olympic venue this weekend and with some fresh faces in the squad, Townsend feels this weekend’s encounters will be the perfect environment for them to learn ahead of the European Championships later this year, as well as the home World Cup in 2018.

“You have got some new people in the squad who have potentially not played in front of a packed crowd before and as much as you try and emulate that where we train it is almost impossible, so it will be a good experience for them to play in front of 5,000 fans,” added Townsend.

Great Britain celebrate a gold medal in the women's hockey at the Rio Olympics (pic David Davies/PA) Great Britain celebrate a gold medal in the women's hockey at the Rio Olympics (pic David Davies/PA)

“It will be nice and noisy where you struggle to hear each other and you go through the nerves you can’t get in training. Then when it comes to the World Cup, which we are hosting, that experience will stand them in good stead.

“For me it is two really good teams to play against and to play them at home at Lee Valley is really exciting and the first time since Rio as well so it will be an incredible spectacle.

“It is rare to have a home Olympics and a World Cup so close together. You can’t pretend we won’t benefit from it with the home crowd and playing on the pitch whenever we want to, so we do have that advantage.”

Townsend missed out on selection for the Olympic Games in 2012 but while disappointed at the time, she openly admits she wasn’t ready for big stage.

She has worked on the psychology side of her game following that omission and later injury, and feels that has made a massive difference.

“In 2012 I wasn’t ready to go to an Olympics and it allowed me a lot of reflection time to work out how I don’t get in that position again,” she added.

“It was a tough time but I look back at it with a lot of fond memories and the girls winning a bronze medal at that time put hockey on the map which has only benefitted us in the long run.

“Psychology is something I have based a lot of my hockey game on since then. You practice your skills and nutrition but the mental aspect of the game is as important, if not more so.

“It was the exactly the same when it came to my injury. I sat down every couple of weeks and talked through stuff I should be doing. I would watch clips back, and set my brain up ready to play and it is something that has been really important.

“If you asked me the same question four years ago I wouldn’t have said it was as important as I was a little younger a more naive. After seeing the benefits of training my brain it has been something I have used in my hockey, especially with the injury.”

The injury was another tough time for the 27-year-old and she admitted the first few months were the toughest, but with the help of team physiotherapist Emma Batchelor she is now back and cannot wait to get in the swing of things again this weekend.

“I was aware I would need surgery as soon as I came back from Rio, so I got my head around it quite quickly,” she said.

“Any athlete that has gone through a long-term injury learns a lot about themselves. There is a lot of alone time and you find mental strength that you didn’t realise you had before.

“Looking back now, it was quite a valuable experience to go through. By no means was it easy but as athletes we are lucky to have the level of support we get in terms of strength and condition, nutrition, lifestyle, physiotherapy and we have every support there is and that made it a lot easier for me.

“Emma Batchelor our physio was someone I saw every day and she has been my rock. When I played my first game back against Spain I walked out on to the pitch and that was the one emotional time I had as I said thank you for everything to her. She has gone above and beyond to get me back on the pitch and I can’t thank her enough.”

As for hopes of winning this weekend, Townsend added: “We are under no illusions that Holland and Argentina are two fantastic teams and we are all setting ourselves up for a huge summer of hockey for us before going to the European Championships, but for me it is just great to be back out there and playing.”

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