Although this summer is likely to be taken over by football World Cup fever, the country will also be trying to win another tournament in the form of the Women’s Hockey World Cup. Amid all the excitement is England, and Team GB, star Hannah Martin.

Although only playing her first senior cap for GB in March 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa, Hannah Martin has been making a name for herself in the world of professional hockey for some time.

We spoke with her to chat about her rise to hockey stardom, how it feels playing for your country, and why team sports should be on every female’s radar.

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PLAYING HOCKEY

Hockey is a challenging sport but there’s so much for England and Team GB to look forward to this year, says Hannah Martin.

The Women’s Hockey World Cup kicks off this July. How do you fancy England’s chances of winning?

This year is a huge year for us as a squad – we’re a mix of both new players and those who were part of the last Olympic cycle. Obviously coming into an environment where your predecessors, and some of those around you, have recently reached the pinnacle of the sport (read: Team GB won Olympic gold in Rio in 2016) is a little daunting, but we’re a year and a half in now and a home World Cup will be an incredible opportunity for us to showcase our sport. Hopefully we can continue the legacy the girls created out in Rio.

Is playing at this level something you always wanted to do?

I think I was about 13 or 14 when I realised that I might have a chance to go all the way – but you never quite believe it until you’re there. You’re constantly battling for selection and the quality of some of the players around you can sometimes make you doubt yourself. I’ve always been determined though and thankfully all the hard work and sacrifice paid off.

It’s just an incredible honour to represent your country and one I will always cherish. I’m very aware of how lucky I am to be playing a sport that I love as my job!

Going back to the beginning, what was it that first sparked your interest in hockey?

I started playing at Ipswich School when I was about eight or nine and absolutely loved it. I was lucky enough to have some brilliant coaches whose passion for the game certainly rubbed off on me.

The game challenges you on so many levels, from your speed and agility to your skill and toughness, and I also really enjoyed being part of a team. Playing alongside your friends makes the winning better and the losing easier!

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What is your fondest memory of playing hockey so far?

Making my international debut was pretty special. There are so many levels that you go through to get there and you can’t quite believe that you’ve made it into the team. I’ll never forget winning my first major medal at the 2017 Euros and scoring in the bronze medal match either.

The Commonwealths were absolutely amazing too! Australians love their sport and turned out to support athletes from all over the Commonwealth. I also loved being there with my brother Harry, (read: Hannah’s brother Harry Martin also plays hockey for England and Great Britain!) who was playing in the men’s team. For us both to win a bronze medal was really something.

Looking forward, what are your ambitions in the sport?

My ultimate goal is to reach the Olympics and to win a medal, however shorter term my main focus is to keep training really hard and get picked for the tournaments leading up to the next Olympics starting with the World Cup this summer.

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FEMALES AND THE WORLD OF TEAM SPORTS

Team sports can sometimes be intimidating for young girls, with many choosing to keep fit and healthy by participating in solo sporting activities like running or hitting the gym. But Hannah Martin believes more females should team sports a go.

What would you say to females who are interested in playing a team sport, but may be a little anxious?

It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, just get stuck in and enjoy it! There are so many benefits to be had from playing team sports like learning to deal with setbacks and improving your confidence and communication skills.

Do you think hockey is a sport that appeals to young girls?

Absolutely! There’s no one size fits all with hockey players. You have quick players, skilful players, tough players, intelligent players and the way these all combine make for a really exciting sport. It’s great for fitness and socialising and I’d encourage anyone to pick up a stick and give it a go.

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What do you love most about playing a team sport?

The camaraderie – being able to share your highs and lows together and knowing that everyone is focused to achieve the same goal is incredible. We share a pretty significant workload and when you see everybody giving it their all, and for that to then translate into success on the pitch, it’s really satisfying.

Who in the sporting world inspires you the most?

My brother Harry inspires me the most. He was already a double Olympian by the age of 23 and had achieved that all while getting a first class degree in economics! He showed me what can be achieved with hard work and when your brother reaches the England team it helps you believe that you can to! He’s someone I’ve always looked up to both on and off the hockey pitch.

Dame Jessica Ennis Hill is somebody I look up to as well. I love how she carried herself as an athlete. She reached the top of her sport and was winning all the medals she went after, but at the same time was incredibly modest and humble. She embodies everything that I think an athlete should be!

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