Team GB's Peel swaps skis for hockey stick to achieve Olympic dream

Peel previously competed in slalom skiing before focusing on hockey and is now going to her first Olympic Games
Peel previously competed in slalom skiing before focusing on hockey and is now going to her first Olympic Games

By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat

Flora Peel’s Olympic dream has come true but not in the way she expected as a child in Cheltenham and Chamonix.

Peel was crowned British slalom champion aged 11 and grew up idolising Chemmy Alcott, treasuring a signed postcard of the four-time alpine skiing Olympian.

It is in field hockey that the 27-year-old will make her debut on the biggest stage in sport, earning a place as one of six debutants in the 16-strong Team GB women’s squad.

“I don’t even know how to put the feeling into words,” said Peel. “It really is what I’ve always dreamed of - at times you fully believe in it, at others you don’t - but being here is surreal.”

Peel, who attended an international school in the French alpine resort of Chamonix, stopped skiing in part due to fear after seeing her sister Lucy have a bad crash on the slopes.

“It was a bit of an eye-opener and it made me not want to throw myself down a mountain any more,” said Peel. “It was that combined with the fact that I loved being part of a team.

“Skiing is quite a lonely, individual sport. It’s just you and your thoughts going down the mountain, whereas I love being in the team and that was the big appeal of hockey for me.”

Despite spending much of her youth in the Olympic host nation, Peel can speak very little French: “it’s one of my biggest regrets.”

Peel earned a place on the GB Elite Development Programme around the time of Rio 2016 but dropped off aged 19 and moved to the Netherlands.

She juggled playing Dutch club hockey, training most evenings, and working as a paralegal for two years until the Covid-19 pandemic hit and she returned to Britain.

Peel returned to Bisham Abbey at that stage and made her full international debut in 2022, playing her part in England's Commonwealth Games victory. She missed that year’s World Cup due to injury but featured in the fourth-placed finish at EuroHockey in 2023.

“It’s been a real rollercoaster,” said Peel. “I’d be lying if I said it had been an easy transition. I was living such a different life in Holland so moving back over was a change in itself and then trying to fit into the team, getting to know people and build relationships.

“It took a while and the injuries made it harder. We all have stories of how injuries have affected us but it makes the highs a lot more special.

“That’s something that athletes regularly say, but it’s true and your team-mates get you through. It’s very special.”

Aldi’s Nearest & Dearest programme helps maximise support and minimise potential distractions for athletes so that they can focus on their performance and make the most of the unique opportunity to compete on one of the world’s largest stages.

Peel’s family will be out in force in the French capital, giving the midfielder a chance to repay all of their sacrifices over the years.

“My family have been unbelievable throughout my whole sporting career,” said Peel. “My parents love sport and did anything and everything for us, driving us all around the country and abroad - they will be in Paris to watch me.

“There are times when I’ve ruined family holidays due to sport and they’ve let me do it. It will mean a lot to me to have them there.”

Aldi are proud Official Partners of Team GB & ParalympicsGB, supporting all athletes through to Paris 2024