01 December 2017

Two-time Olympian and GREAT Britain crew member Hannah Macleod arrived in Fremantle earlier this week ahead of joining her crew to take on the upcoming All-Australian Leg 4 of the Clipper Race.

IMAGE: Hannah with GREAT Britain Skipper Andy Burns outside No.10 Downing Street.

Sailing is a new challenge for Hannah, who recently retired from the sport which saw her win a gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games and bronze in London. On taking part in the Clipper Race, Hannah says: “Living on the boat is unbelievably tough. I never doubted my physical ability to cope with the workload however, having the mental endurance required to deal with sleep deprivation, the dietary challenges, the weather conditions and lack of time to mentally recharge is incredible.”

“But I love representing my country and it will be great to be able to do this again alongside people who may have never previously had the opportunity.”

Since joining the team in Fremantle, Hannah has been very busy helping to manage the victualling and getting involved with boat prep, but also found time to spend half a day sharing her career experiences with young members of Hockey WA’s development squad in Perth.

Explaining why it was important to her, Hannah says: “I remember when GB sprinter Kriss Akabusi came into my school when I was little, and I still have that my photo with him and his signature.

“It was so inspirational so I know just how important it is for events like this. The conversations that you have you could literally inspire someone to change direction or give them the drive and passion to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.”

Arriving at Hockey WA’s Perth Stadium was a familiar experience for Hannah, who played the Australian Hockeyroos there shortly before starting down the road which would lead to an Olympic Gold Medal at the Rio 2016 Games.

“It’s really strange to be back,” says Hannah. “It was actually the final series matches we had before Olympic selection so this was a very special trip for me. It was a very, very pressurised trip and we had some really, really tough matches against Australia. It is an incredible place they are absolutely passionate about hockey here and I have got some very fond memories of this place.”

How to handle that pressure and achieve at an elite level were the two of the main items on the agenda when Hannah met twelve of the under-15 and 16 members of the Talent Accelerant Program (TAP).

After an introduction, which included the players excelling at a quick-fire Q&A session about Hannah’s career, the group got to work, running through drills and talking tactics.

What surprised Hannah was how even the coaches of the junior development teams were putting the team strategies used by the Great Britain team before and during Rio into practice. Hannah and her teammates to this day claim that they were not the most skilled team at the 2016 Olympic games. What they do claim to have been the best at was working together, and now teams all over the world, including the Hockey WA TAP, are putting their teamwork philosophies into practice.

Hannah says: “To be truly the best team in the world you have to go about things slightly differently.

“My favourite player growing up was Alyson Annan who was a phenomenal striker for Australia and to hear a country with such a strong history in hockey now try and find out about what we’ve been doing and kind of take a few of those things on board and use them in their squad – I don’t know how I feel about it really! But it’s just very respectful and its quite good to hear you’ve had that influence on the sport.”

There were plenty of inspiring conversation at the end of the session, with the overall theme about confidence and self-belief.

“The girls were asking, ‘what do you do if you don’t really think you can make it to senior level?’ or, ‘have you had any setbacks?’ And you’re like, yes absolutely! You will always have self-doubt, it’s absolutely normal, but if you have a dream and you enjoy what you’re doing then that’s the most important thing and you’ve got to stick with it.”

The lessons particularly struck one of the players Sarah Guilfoyle, who says: “It’s really amazing to have someone so experienced and high level high level hockey player come down and talk to us.

“She taught us just to believe in yourself and have confidence. As she said, you are always going to be knocked out of teams, you’re always going to be wanting to get to the next level so if you just trust yourself and trust what you can do then you will be able to get there with some self-belief and hard work.”

The other key message of the day was that there is life outside of sport, and the importance of challenging yourself with something new, as Hannah explains: “You need a goal and you need to work hard towards something

“For a lot of the girls it’s the Olympics now and it was the same for me for a number of years and now actually my Olympics has been replaced by the Clipper Race. It is the same thing, you are learning every day you are listening to people you are trying to pick up points and you have an end goal in sight.”

After the opening 2,500 nautical mile race from Fremantle to Sydney, Hannah will take part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on board GREAT Britain, before sprinting up the east coast of Australia from Hobart to Airlie Beach for the Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival.

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