A week until the Commonwealth Games 2022 begins in Birmingham, and with a handful of Nottinghamshire athletes participating, the Nottingham Sport caught up with two Hockey representatives, from Beeston Hockey Club, who’ll be representing Wales, Gareth Griffiths, and Sophie Robinson.
Of the two athletes it’s expected that these Games will be the first, and last, for Sophie Robinson, having come off the back of a great season with Beeston Ladies, a fifth placed league finish, and a cup success (3-1 vs. Buckingham), highlights eclipsed by the Welsh call-up – just.
Gareth on the other hand, is in the early(ish) throes of his career in the sport, and, although the men’s season didn’t quite go according to plan, they were understandably glad to get much needed game time beneath their belts.
“We were really pleased to have finished fifth in the league, and to upset some of the bigger sides along the way was great,” beamed Sophie.
“Also, to retain the cup, with the win over Buckingham, that was just brilliant, but I never expected a call-up for the Games,
“I was happy, quietly confident even, after the week’s training camp in Durham, but it was down to the coach as to whether I’d have been called up.
“When I found out that I had been though, I just burst into tears because I’d missed out on the last three Games, so this, it’ll be my first, and last, roll of the dice, with my country.”
At 33-years-old you can see where Sophie is coming from, heading into the twilight of her playing career, and, after more than 200 appearances for the Bees, this, for Wales, will be the pinnacle for her, and for her family as well.
“All the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, which I’ve put into my game, has paid off,” admits Sophie.
“It was always a massive thing for me to be able to go and play in a major tournament and, when this call came, I actually panicked my family as they thought that something serious had happened.
“It’s brilliant, and I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to get started.”
Starting with a game against Canada, on Friday 29 July, Sophie and her Welsh teammates are certainly looking forward to a pool stage that will also see them oppose India, Ghana, and the home nation, England.
“There’ll be some familiar faces, old friend, I’m sure,” smiled Sophie.
“Anything can happen though and, even though the game with England will be an exciting one, our aspirations are for a semi-final place, at least.
“It’s a special thing for me though, to play at home, as my family and friends will all be there, and I should also be achieving my fiftieth cap in the first game as well.”
In the men’s tournament, Gareth Griffiths and his Welsh teammates, they beginning their tournament the following day, Saturday 30 July, also against Canada, before pool games against England, Ghana, and India.
The call-up for Griffiths has thrust him into a spotlight he’s perhaps less accustomed to, but is taking to, especially having taken over the Bees captaincy from Adam Dixon, who left last summer.
“I’ve been here all my life really,” began Gareth.
“I knew at 13 that hockey was where I wanted to be; it’s in the family so I always knew that, with the role models I have around me, this is where I wanted to be.
“There’s been some great leaders, captains here, in which to follow, and Adam was very experienced; I learnt a lot from him and that’s helped me know what I had to do myself.
“This past season though, with the players that did leave, we did a good job in finishing eighth.
“We wanted to push for the top four, but we’ll look to do that next year, and then push on from there.”
With Wales however, and the Commonwealth Games, Gareth was part of the training camp at the turn of the year, following conversations with the national coach.
Taking in training camps with the national team has helped to push his game along and now, it’s about putting all of that into action.
“When I got that email through, I was really nervous about opening it,” admitted Gareth.
“It’s fantastic though, a dream come true, and I know that myself, and the team, will give it our all.
“This group of players, we’re a tightly knit, family orientated group, and we’re aiming for our best finish.
“As for Sophie (Robinson), it’s brilliant for her, and for Beeston.
“She thoroughly deserves the call-up and I know she will give it her all.”
The pool game schedule for the women’s (Sophie Robinson) and men’s (Gareth Griffiths) Welsh teams for the Commonwealth Games are as follows –
WALES WOMEN vs. Canada (29 July); vs. India (30 July); vs. Ghana (1 August); vs. England (4 August).
WALES MEN vs. Canada (30 July); vs. England (31 July); vs. Ghana (3 August); vs. India (4 August).
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @OfficialBeeHC Griffiths & Robinson both looking forward to represent Wales at the games.