The Hockey Gold Medallist That Nearly Wasn’t

It’s incredible the part fate can play in someone’s life, and how things could have turned out so different. One event could change the course of history and we can be left wondering what would have happened if  it had gone the other way. An example of this is the story of Great Britain Hockey midfielder, Nicola White.

At last year’s Summer Olympics, White won gold in that incredible final against the Netherlands, but it could have been so different for her, as after she failed her first England Hockey trial at the age of fifteen. Nicola even went as far as buying running spikes and almost traded her stick to take up the Heptathlon. Who knows, she could have even gave Jessica Ennis-Hill a run for her money!

Nicola White in action for Great Britain

I spoke to Nicola and asked her about why she considered giving up hockey. Nicola explained, “My journey was not perfect. I failed at my first England trial when I was fifteen. I didn’t get my second England trial until I was nineteen. And that is not a perfect journey in the slightest. Normally you’d make it by fifteen and then you’re in the setup the whole way; Under 16s, Under 21s then seniors. But for me I was so desperate to win an Olympic gold. I wanted to go to an Olympic Games, I wanted to win that gold medal so much that I felt why not go for something else I’m good at?”

The young Nicola had dreamt of being an Olympian from a young age and she admitted that she thought her hockey dream was over at eighteen. “At the age of eighteen/nineteen I thought it was over. I thought my dream would have been hockey. I just wasn’t getting anywhere, so I bought my spikes and I was ready to join the club”.

I might never have gone to an Olympic Games – Nicola White

Yet, in a dramatic twist of fate, she revealed, “Then, I got one last England trial and I haven’t looked back since. But I’m just lucky in the sense that I got that last England trial when I was nineteen, otherwise, who knows, I may not have been here, I may not have made it in athletics. I might never have gone to an Olympic Games; very scary”.

It’s a very inspiring story, and one which she is keen to share with youngsters as she travels the country visiting schools and clubs. “When I go to schools, I’m this girl from Oldham who had this crazy dream of going to an Olympic games and winning a gold medal. And it wasn’t a perfect journey. I didn’t make it until I was nineteen years old. And that’s a long time, and it just shows that with a little bit of will power and training you can achieve your dream”.

She concluded, “One of our values as a squad is about inspiring the future, so we feel it’s a duty for us to be role models, to be ambassadors and spread the word and the love for hockey out there”.

I think we’re all happy that Nicola left Jessica to the heptathlon and persisted with hockey.

It’s not unheard of for athletes to play more than one sport in their career, or consider another sport in the pursuit of greatness. Legendary South African cricketer Jonty (Jonathan) Rhodes was chosen to play for the South African national hockey team in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Although being chosen to play, South Africa failed to qualify in 1992 and Rhodes missed out in 1996 due to a hamstring injury. Rhodes’ most famous moment has to be his flying run out against Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup. Wonder how he’d have done on the hockey world stage?

Rhodes’ amazing flying run out in the 1992 Cricket World Cup


Joanne Pilson

Joanne Pilson is from Doncaster, England and is the Communications Officer for Worksop Ladies Hockey Club, writing original, topical content about hockey and women's sports. Joanne plays hockey, cricket and football and enjoys them with a passion, although she's only done so for the last five years. Sport has done so much to enhance her life, she continuously encourages others to take part and does all she can to promote it..