An interview with GB hockey star Giselle Ansley
PUBLISHED: 09:48 03 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:48 03 April 2018
England and GB Women's hockey star, Giselle Ansley, looks back at a whirlwind 18 months since winning Gold at the Rio Olympics and tells Devon Life of her delight at the impact the team's success has had on the sport
Since making her international debut in 2013, Devonshire girl Giselle Ansley has been a key component in defence for both the England and GB ladies hockey side. Born in Kingsbridge, she was introduced to hockey at a young age, watching her mum from a pitch side pushchair at Paignton Hockey Club.
“I started playing hockey mainly because of my mum,” confirms Giselle. “I used to watch her regularly and I suppose it was only a matter of time before I picked up a stick for myself.
“I was eight when I started at Paignton before moving to Dartmouth Hockey Club and then Plymouth Marjons Hockey Club. I have such happy memories of all my early clubs.”
Now at the age of just 25, Giselle has already achieved what most athletes can only dream of – winning an Olympic gold medal. “Rio was an incredible experience, something I will never forget,” reflects Giselle, who was part of a team that won all eight of their matches in the tournament en route to the gold medal match.
“We had a great support team around us and we were able to create a feeling of togetherness and a winning philosophy that enabled us to be successful.’’
Of Team GB’s 67 medal triumphs at Rio’s summer Olympics in 2016, it was the women’s hockey team that seemed to particularly capture the public imagination. The shootout victory against Holland was watched by around nine million people in the UK.
Giselle recalls: “We were in something of a bubble out in Brazil and we had no idea how many people back in the UK had been watching our games on TV. We only really became aware of how much it meant when we landed after the games and it seemed as if the whole of the airport had stopped to welcome us back.
“There were loads of kids with hockey sticks and team shirts and that’s when it struck what an impact our victory has had.’’
Eighteen months on from their victory and England Hockey are still reaping the rewards from the team’s success. Over 10,000 new players have been inspired to pick up sticks and join hockey clubs since the team won gold at Rio 2016 and the total number of young girls in hockey has doubled since 2012.
“To see the impact the team’s success has had on the sport and to see the number of youngsters now playing the game it makes our achievements even more special,” says Giselle.
“Hockey has given me so much, it’s the best sport in the world. I would love for the next generation to experience what we have.”
The team had to settle for a bronze medal when defending their Euro Hockey Championship title in September. Bronze means Great Britain or England have won at least one major medal in every year since 2009, a feat Giselle and her team mates are very proud of.
“We lost a lot of experience through retirement post Rio. Obviously, we were disappointed to lose in the semis but there are plenty of fresh faces in the squad who had never played tournament hockey at the top level before, so to pick up a medal was a great achievement. There are some really exciting young players in the squad who will learn a lot from the experience.”
The tournament was a particularly significant one for Ansley, who passed 100 caps during the quarter-finals.
“It was a very special moment, to reach a milestone like that at this stage of my career.
“When I started out I never thought I could play for England, let alone play 100 times!”
Next on the agenda for Giselle and her England team mates is the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April and then, perhaps bigger even than that, the small matter of a home World Cup, starting in June.
Ticket sales for the tournament have been overwhelming with organisers receiving more than 100,000 ticket applications in the ballot.
“As a team, we absolutely cannot wait for the World Cup in London, the demand for tickets has been incredible. To know that every England pool game is sold out is a huge motivation for the squad and we cannot wait to go out and make the country proud.”
Investec, the specialist bank and asset manager, supports women’s hockey from grass roots level through to the national team. For more information, visit investec.co.uk/hockey.
Giselle Ansley’s fitness tips and tricks
Try anything: fitness doesn’t have to be about the gym and monotony can lead to a lack of motivation. Tennis, squash, kayaking…anything to get the heart rate going!
Do it with friends: if it’s fun and something you enjoy you’re more likely to stick with it so do it with friends, they can also spur you on if it gets a bit tough.
Everything in moderation: things like carbs are crucial for performance so don’t deny yourself them.
Schedule: if you plan your meals you won’t end up getting hungry and reaching for unhealthy snacks. Likewise, if you schedule exercise into your week you’re more likely to stick with it.
Build it up slowly: gradual increases in the intensity will help improve your fitness, but don’t rush it.