Going for Gold in Tokyo
by KIERAN PETRIK-BRUCE
5th July 2021
WARRANDYTE’S OWN will be going to Tokyo 2020. In December 2020, Rachael Lynch, Federation of International Hockey 2019 goalkeeper of the year, was dropped from the 2021 squad by then coach Paul Guadoin, But in a wonderful turn of events, it has been confirmed that the now- Perth-based nurse will represent Australia in Tokyo, in her second Olympic Games. Lynch’s international debut with the Hockeyroos was in 2006 and since then has chalked up numerous international fixtures, including three Commonwealth Games. Since the decision to drop her in late 2020, major change has occurred throughout the Hockeyroos setup including the appointment of a new coach, two-time Gold medal Hockeyroo, Katrina Powell. Over the past 12 months, Lynch, a registered nurse, has been simultaneously working on the front line of the pandemic, conducting COVID-19 tests for a mining company in Perth, while tirelessly training to fight for her place on the 16-player squad. Lynch told the Diary that this time playing for the Green and Gold felt, “way bigger”, adding that since the brunt of the pandemic the players have a
“new-found gratitude for international travel, for competition, and for being outside without a mask.” While initially focused on her performance and what she needed to do to break back into the squad, Lynch, as an experienced player, focuses as much of her time helping the rest of the girls in the squad, especially the newer players, saying
“I know that it (also) helps me and my training.” Adding that she has been to an Olympics already and that it helps to impart that knowledge and to
“shed some light on some of the things that make the girls nervous”. The Hockeyroos will be chasing medal placing at Tokyo, currently they are ranked 4th in the world, yet Lynch feels that all the teams are on a
“level playing field.” With very few international competitions, most of the nations have not been able to scout other teams, something that, according to Lynch, allows teams to
“have the opportunity to go away and work on things essentially in private.” Most of the scouting and information on other teams — their strategy, and their set-up — will all be done during the Games; Powell and the coaching team will have their work cut out for them, having to apply game plans they have trained, while accommodating for what other teams are doing. Lynch believes that the most important thing will be to
“keep calm” in those high-pressure situations, adding that medal placings
“will come down to who can adapt quickly.” Lynch’s return to the squad is a boost, not just for her work in goal, but for her knowledge and calm demeanour,
“that’s what I bring to the group.
“That will give the girls a lot more confidence.”
Tokyo 2020 will be vastly different to any of the modern Olympics, with no friends, family, or fans in the stadiums, and with players isolating away from most of the other athletes. Lynch believes that there will be less distractions, although socialising in the village, while distracting “is an enjoyable part of the experience”.
An experience athletes will miss out on, but one that will not be too isolating, as most of the time players are with the rest of the squad or in the hotels.
One of the reasons the athletes socialising is important is it allows for time to “switch off when you need to” Lynch said, you need to
“have a bit of fun within the confines of what you can do.”
While the lack of family and friends present may be challenging mentally, a lack of a crowd may provide an advantage to the athletes. On field players rely on hearing communications from coaches and other players which, without needing to shout over thousands, is something Lynch said they
“don’t have to worry about too much.” While the hopes of the nation can weigh heavy and add pressure, Lynch said that
“knowing that there is a couple of million people watching on TV, that goes out of your head soon as you start the game.” So without the screaming fans there is less to distract you as
“when you have a packed house that adds pressure, that can de-rail you.”
Reflecting on the fact that there had been a few moments she thought Tokyo 2020 would not go ahead, along with her axing and reinstatement to the squad, Lynch said that representing Australia at Tokyo will feel special.
“For me personally, given what I have been through, this feels special to do it, and to do so on a world stage will be even better.”
The Hockeyroos campaign for Gold begins with a match against Spain on Sunday, July 25, at 10am Japan Standard time (JST) (11am AEST).