Maddie Hinch happy to be in the spotlight again after overcoming her fears

·4-min read

Maddie Hinch made for a reluctant heroine when she returned to compete in front of a home crowd two years after her stunning series of penalty saves had sealed Olympic gold for Great Britain’s women’s hockey team in Rio.

Hinch admitted she “hated” the inevitable attention that was directed her way from the packed grandstands at Lee Valley, and England’s disappointing World Cup last-eight exit exacerbated a disillusion that led to Hinch taking time away from the international stage.

The 33-year-old has since spoken candidly of the mental health concerns that led her to question her future in the sport – and the coping mechanisms she has learned and adopted in order to enable her to enjoy the prospect of returning to centre stage at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Maddie Hinch is hoping to inspire future athletes to take a new approach to mental health concerns (Red Bull)
Maddie Hinch is hoping to inspire future athletes to take a new approach to mental health concerns (Red Bull)

“If it was still a problem there’s no way I could have continued,” Hinch told PA Media. “I’m proud of the fact that people are chanting my name because it means I must be doing something right.

“I got it all wrong, I was almost hating the fact that I was in the spotlight. I’m happy that I have it as part of my world now, I’ve just had time to understand it better and deal with it.

“I always used to love it before Rio, when I made a big save at home in a big game, but all of a sudden I started to fear it. Thank God in the last few years I’ve managed to sort it out, and I’m excited about hopefully having a few people shouting my name in Birmingham.”

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Day Fourteen
Maddie Hinch led Great Britain to a famous triumph in Rio (Owen Humphreys/PA)

England have won women’s hockey medals at each of the last six Commonwealth Games, but are yet to claim their first gold. Hinch, who has won a total of 157 caps for Great Britain and England teams, will once again be integral when they start their campaign against Ghana on Saturday.

No longer concerned by the increased expectations that still linger six years on from the Rio triumph, Hinch is determined to use the rest of her career to equip current and future generations with the knowledge to normalise mental health issues within elite sport.

“There’s no doubt that in elite sport you are constantly under a microscope and these are triggers that can force bad days, but I’ve worked so hard off the pitch now that I understand myself more, and I understand those triggers and am able to talk about it,” added Hinch.

“I think we need to change the perception of mental health as being no more or less important than the physical side of what we do. I spend a bit of extra time with the psychologist in the same way that a team-mate might need an extra bit of rehab for their knees.”

England intend for their hockey campaign to conclude with a gold medal match on August 7, already being dubbed a potential ‘Super Sunday’ for women’s sport with the netball squad also looking to successfully defend their Commonwealth Games title on the same day.

With the surging success of football’s Lionesses, Hinch hailed a continued revolution in the profile of women’s sport and admitted it made it more important than ever for her team-mates to maintain their hard-earned high profile in the wake of Rio.

Sport – 2014 Commonwealth Games – Day Nine
Maddie Hinch made her Commonwealth Games debut in Glasgow in 2014 (David Davies/PA)

“I don’t see it as a competition, but as sports we are all trying to do the same thing and fight for our place, and while it’s a slow process, women’s sport is definitely moving in the right direction,” added Hinch.

“We’re proud to be a part of that, but we’re also aware that our space is getting smaller. As a sport we need to keep putting ourselves out there and sharing why we think picking up a hockey stick is the right choice.”

:: To find out more about Maddie Hinch, head to her Red Bull athlete profile page: https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/athlete/maddie-hinch

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