Olympic gold medallist Quek sympathises with Paris hopefuls waiting to discover fate

Elite sports stars are always after control so there is nothing harder than the complete helplessness of waiting on selection.

2016 Olympic gold medal-winning hockey player Sam Quek knows that better than most, having been on both sides of the equation.

She missed out on the GB squad in both Beijing and London, before making the cut for Rio as the hockey players provided arguably the iconic moment of the Games as they claimed gold in a penalty shootout win over favourites the Netherlands.

Having suffered both fates, understandably, Quek has huge sympathy for those British Olympic hopefuls waiting to find out if they have made the cut for Paris next year.

Explaining what it will be like, she said: “The first thing as an Olympic athlete if you get selected to go to Paris, as soon as you are selected, not as a reserve, in the starting team, everything else goes out the window. Then you can breathe and focus on the job.

“In the build-up, you’re thinking about not getting injured, not being fatigued but you want to be in the team and doing what everyone is doing. All these things are going on in your head. 

“The run-up in 2015, we did an Australia trip and I had a very strong trip. I was always doubting myself. Then we had the Olympic Games selection on the Monday morning after a weekend away in the Netherlands. We played two Test matches against the world number ones. The first game, I wasn’t picked, I was petrified. 

“I played on Sunday and didn’t have my best game. I got my 125th cap on that Sunday. My mind was gone. Then the selection email came out on the Monday and I got selected. 

“We were constantly, analysing and thinking, maybe overthinking. But you learn to control what you can control. The run-up to the Olympics is not nice. You thrive under pressure, that’s what you do, but there nothing is in your control.” 

Once she had been selected, Quek was able to re-establish that control, helping the team to a first-ever Olympic women’s hockey gold.

She called time on her playing days in the aftermath of Rio and turned her attentions to a successful broadcasting career.

That has involved taking over as a team captain on BBC television show ‘A Question of Sport’ as well as presenting a host of different sports.

Quek has now been named as the new host of the second series of Amazing Starts Here, an award-winning podcast series featuring ordinary people doing extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

She added: “Being a former athlete, I was massively supported by the National Lottery to get to where I got to. So when I got on board, I was 100% invested and interested in where the support goes. Rightly or wrongly, I was quite blown away by how many corners of the UK, how many projects, large and small and all the different types of people who helping in their communities. The people we spoke to are just amazing, motivated by their past, people they have lived with or seen or worked with.

“The spectrum of different projects was incredible and seeing where the £30 million that is raised by players goes, it was really humbling and inspirational. I was blown away really.”

Sam Quek is the host of The National Lottery’s award-winning podcast series Amazing Starts Here which celebrates the ordinary people who do extraordinary things with help of the £30 million raised by National Lottery players every week for good causes throughout the UK. Listen to the entire series here: https://podfollow.com/amazing-starts-here

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