Olympic hero Sally returns home

By Chris Willmott 15/08 Updated: 15/08 16:45

Buy photos » Solihull’s Olympic hero Sally Walton celebrates the team’s Bronze medal at the Riverbank Arena.

I HAVE to pinch myself to make sure it's real - the words of Olympic Bronze Medallist Sally Walton as she reflects on realising her sporting ambitions.

Just three weeks ago the 31-year-old from Solihull was relatively unknown to those outside the world of hockey.

But a starring role in the Team GB women's hockey team has catapulted her and her team-mates into the public eye.

For the last four years Sally, a part-time sports tutor at Solihull College, and the rest of the Team GB squad have been dedicating every day to their Olympic dream - playing and training together at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre.

And now that dream has become a reality with a Bronze Medal secured in a play-off match against New Zealand on Friday, which they won 3-1.

"Winning an Olympic medal is a lifelong dream of mine and I am so happy to have achieved it," Sally told The Observer.

"There was a slight disappointment when we didn't get the Gold we had been working so hard for - but the Bronze is still amazing - especially as we had to pick ourselves up after the semi-final and battle for it."

The phrase Olympic Legacy has been key in the days since the curtain came down on London 2012.

And Sally hopes that her success will inspire a new generation of hockey players to take up the sport she loves and has dedicated her life to.

"As much as winning the medal is a personal achievement for me and the girls, we are all determined to use our success for the better of our sport," said the former Greswolde Primary and Lode Heath school pupil.

"I don't know what the immediate future holds for me as life is so upside-down, but I know I want to visit schools and sports clubs and encourage youngsters to take up hockey - and that's the same for the rest of the girls from the team."

Sally added that the team had no idea of the furore they were causing across the country as being in the Olympic Village was like being in a bubble.

"We were all cheering each other on in our various events, but we had no idea of the level of support we were getting from everyone else until it finished and we went on stage in Hyde Park in front of 45,000 people," she added.

"I went to the gym yesterday and kept being stopped by people who wanted to congratulate me - I never thought we would be recognised like that - it's all been fantastic."

Sally took up hockey at the age of seven when she started playing for Hampton Hockey Club - the team she played for until she left for university in Liverpool when she joined her current team Bowdon Hightown.

And the 31-year-old credits her proud parents Tony and Jan, who were at every match she played in the Olympics, with helping her make her dreams come true.

"They have always been my number one fans who have ferried me around for my hockey since the age of seven," she added.

"None of this would have been possible without them.

"A massive thank you to them and all my family and friends who have supported me over the years and helped my dream become a reality."

Anyone wanting to find out more about hockey and where you can play it can visit: www.hockeynation.info

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