Kerry off to the Olympics

By PADDY DAVITTGB national women's hockey head coach and former King's Lynn Pelicans' youth product Danny Kerry refuses to make any Olympic predictions for his Beijing-bound squad.

By PADDY DAVITT

GB national women's hockey head coach and former King's Lynn Pelicans' youth product Danny Kerry refuses to make any Olympic predictions for his Beijing-bound squad.

The former KES pupil's side hammered reigning Olympic champions Germany 4-1 in the final of the Setanta Trophy in Dublin earlier this month.

Kerry's squad meet the Germans again in their opening pool B fixture on August 10 in China but Kerry insists no one will get carried away.

GB failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Games. The team's solitary Olympic women's medal came when they clinched bronze at Barcelona in 1992.

“We will very simply take each game as it comes at the Games,” said Kerry. “We'll avoid speculation as to final positioning and instead remaining focused on the immediate task in hand. We had a very good first half performance with some good incisive play in that match (against Germany). In the second half, we set out to work on a few things with the first pool game in the Olympics in mind which upset the rhythm and Germany played well. We rode the storm somewhat and held on to a good winning margin.”

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Kerry's squad completed its final Olympic preparations by finishing runners up at a four nations tournament in Holland over the weekend. GB beat India, South Africa and the Dutch in the prelims before losing to the hosts in the final.

The King's Lynn-bred coach - appointed in 2006 after leading England to Commonwealth bronze in Melbourne - is adamant nothing is being left to chance.

His GB squad has enjoyed warm weather training in Spain and travelled to Australia for a five test tour against the Hockeyroos earlier this year during the build up to Beijing. GB booked their place after securing bronze at the 2007 EuroHockey Nations Championships.

“The squad's early qualification allowed the group to have the longest GB preparatory phase ever,” said Kerry. “As such we have been considering the nature of the GB squad since 2006 and assessing in earnest since January. The final squad announcement follows an exhaustive process measuring players against the best teams in the world in testing climatic conditions.”

Kerry has put his faith in 12 of the England squad who claimed Commonwealth bronze but the former Pelican sprung a surprise with the inclusion of 17-year-old Charlotte Craddock. The teenager is the youngest ever Olympic athlete to represent Team GB.

“The squad itself has a good nucleus of experienced players, some of whom have already tasted Olympic competition in 2000,” said Kerry. “Equally, the squad contains an element of youth which over the program has shown its effectiveness against top ranked international teams. We have a very athletic squad with high levels of physical conditioning and we have worked hard to ensure our game of hockey is robust under the pressure of Olympic competition.”

GB have also been drawn against Argentina, Japan, USA and New Zealand in pool B. Only the top two in each pool go forward to contest the medal matches.