Maddie Hinch: GB’s Olympic champion goalkeeper retires after ‘fairytale’ career

  • By Katie Stafford
  • BBC Sport

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Hinch saved all four New Zealand shootouts and won Britain’s 24th gold medal at Rio 2016

When Maddie Hinch held four shootouts to seal Olympic hockey gold and make British sporting history, she was unprepared for what happened next.

That moment in 2016 was watched by nine million people on TV in the UK, the BBC show News at Ten was postponed and she and her team shot to instant fame.

Hinch, who announced her international retirement, reflected on the “weight of gold” after the “fairy tale” in Rio.

“It’s a part of my life that I will always fight to understand,” she said.

“But I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of the sport’s golden era,” the 34-year-old told BBC Sport.

It was the first time Great Britain won Olympic women’s ice hockey gold by defeating defending champions Netherlands in dramatic fashion.

“In the beginning we were all full of adrenaline. We weren’t used to it and we definitely weren’t ready for it,” Hinch added.

“For the amount of preparation we had put in, the only thing we hadn’t really thought about was the glory and ‘what if we win?'”

“It was our time to inspire people”

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Hinch had a little red book with notes on the opponent for the 2016 Olympic finals

Hinch, who was initially “high-riding” after the win, described the return to reality after Rio as “overwhelming”.

“I was now a name that people were talking about, watching and following, and I felt a sense of anticipation,” she said.

“I’m talking about the weight of the gold medal because yes, it’s gold, but literally the weight I felt from it was a time I wasn’t prepared for.

“It was overwhelming for many of us. We’ve been taken left, right and center even while shredding carrots on breakfast shows and it was amazing because it was time to share our work and inspire people to believe it’s possible.

“I think going through that prepared me better for the later part of my sporting career because without it I might have stopped resentment. But I have none of it.”

Four months after British gold medal success, Hinch was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honors List 2017 for services to ice hockey.

As for whether she has any advice for athletes who are being put in the spotlight, she added: “Talk about it. I’ve spent the better part of a year saying I’m fine, but more that I must be fine.

“I had the perception that I couldn’t be vulnerable because in elite sport there is a perception that vulnerability is weakness – and that’s not the case at all.

“I would have spoken sooner if I could repeat that part of my life.”

“I made a promise to myself”

The three-time European medalist has played 186 times for England and Great Britain after making her international debut in 2008 aged 19.

That completed the full set for the keeper, who has silver and bronze medals from Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

As for why she chose to retire now, she said: “I didn’t know when I would feel like the time was right. You have to give 100% so I would be frustrated if I didn’t do justice to that.

“I promised myself that if I stopped giving 100 percent, I would stop and hand the number one jersey over to someone else.”

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What’s next for Hinch?

“I still compete for my club in the Netherlands [HC Tilburg]so I’ve got about 10 hockey games left and then we’ll see,” she said.

“I don’t know if it will be my last games or if I will come back to the English leagues. I will book a summer vacation first!

“I would like to devote more time to my company [a coaching business] because the community around the goalkeepers is a special one and so far I’ve only really been able to inspire on the pitch.

“I would also like to go out and see what life has to offer. I want to test the waters.”

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