Maddie Hinch: Somerset's Golden Girl
PUBLISHED: 16:16 20 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:16 20 November 2016
Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch was the hero of Great Britain's hockey gold medal success at this summer's Olympics, saving three penalties in the final shootout against Holland to secure victory in Rio. Here she explains why her origins in the sport belong to Somerset
Of Team GB’s 67 medal triumphs at this summer’s Olympic Games, one success that seemed to particularly capture the public imagination was the gold won by the women’s hockey team. The ladies’ penalty shootout victory in the gold medal Match against Holland was watched by around nine million people in the UK that evening, even delaying the start of BBC News at 10.
Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch became a household name overnight on the back of her performances in Brazil, saving all three penalties she faced in the 2-0 shootout win. She had also stopped a penalty in the normal period of the match that finished in a 3-3 tie. Even though her name trended on Twitter after that victory, Maddie says she and her teammates were completely unaware of the interest in the victorious hockey team back home.
“We were in something of a bubble out in Brazil and we had no idea how many people back in the UK had been watching our games on TV,” reflects Maddie, who is a former student of King’s College in Taunton. “We also had a social media ban while we were away, so we could fully focus on the task in hand.
“We really became aware of how much our gold medal meant when we landed after the Games with the rest of Team GB and it seemed like the whole of the airport had ground to a halt to welcome us home. There were lots of little kids with hockey sticks and team shirts and that’s really when it struck what an impact our victory has had.”
Maddie was inspired into hockey at a young age herself. Originally born in Sussex, she moved from Belgium to Somerset aged 12 and enrolled at Hazlegrove Preparatory School near Sparkford where she discovered the sport.
“I was playing rounders one day and apparently I was very dramatically diving around to catch balls that were coming in my direction,” laughs Maddie. “My coach, called Miss Lambert, said: ‘Maddie, we have to get you in goal next term’ and I went home with a hockey kit bag for the summer with gloves etc. I’ve never looked back from there really.”
Maddie’s parents ran a nursing home in Keinton Mandeville for 10 years, with Maddie boarding at King’s College before moving away to study sport and exercise science at Loughborough University.
“I loved my school days, the boarding lifestyle and how much sport was on offer to me,” says Maddie. “I played hockey for King’s on a Saturday and went into the first-team fairly early on and was the main goalkeeper from the age of 15. I went on to captain them in my final year.
“I did quite a number of sports when I was at King’s and became a sports scholar. One of my PE teachers was a hockey player for Exmouth Ladies, who were in the National League side, and I also started to play for them when I was a teenager.
“I went home to Keinton Mandeville most weekends. It is a quiet village, but there was always lots of stuff to do around my family home growing up. We had paddocks there and also a dog, so there were plenty of walks. What was surreal was having a nursing home in the middle of the garden. It felt at times like I had 22 grandmas!
“It was all hands on deck as a family and we would all spend Christmas Day working for example, so we never had a ‘proper’ Christmas so to speak for 10 years.”
In 2008, the same year Maddie enrolled at Loughborough University, she made her debut for England. Fast-forward eight years and she surpassed 100 combined international appearances for England and Great Britain while playing in the Olympic Games in Rio.
“The last few years have been especially crazy for me,” comments Maddie, who won the European Championships with England last year and silver with them at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
“I only became number one goalkeeper for England in 2013, when I’d only previously won about seven or eight caps. Winning my hundredth cap out in Rio was a big landmark, especially for a goalkeeper. I have obviously played a lot of internationals over the last three years and I’m hugely grateful to the coaches for the faith they have shown in me.”
Great Britain won all seven of their group stage and knockout games at the Olympics en route to the final against Holland. Maddie’s subsequent saves in the penalty shoot-out brought Great Britain’s first-ever Olympic gold in women’s hockey and a flurry of interest in Maddie and her team mates as a result.
“There really has been so much going on since that final win over Holland that it has been hard to sit back and reflect on what we did,” adds Maddie, who ironically is playing her club hockey in the Netherlands this season for SCHC in Utrecht.
“I think ‘whirlwind’ is the best word to describe what life has been like since winning gold, in terms of the press interest and that kind of thing. Over a month on, I’m yet to watch the recording of the final, which I am really keen to do. It would be great to relive it because it’s all a bit of a blur at the moment!”
Read more about Somerset’s Olympic heroes here.