Monday, 24 May 2010

Race for Fitness


Whilst the majority of new mums battle with the time and energy to regain their figure, Jo Pavey has bounced back into fine form whilst embracing motherhood yet now faces a test against time to return to championship action this summer, Nicola Bamford writes.

Since the birth of baby Jacob last autumn, 36-year old Pavey and her husband and manager, Gavin have succeeded in their biggest challenge to date. As a couple, the Pavey’s have negotiated their way to the top of the national podium and into the mix on the international scene on numerous occasions in the past decade, but juggling training and competition with the new addition to their family has unquestionably been their toughest test.

Now the trio; who incidentally share their birthdays in the same week in September, are the epitome of organisation. Born in Devon and based in Teddington on the outskirts of London, Pavey explained how she combines her sport with motherhood:

“It’s really busy so I have to be really organised. It is a challenge; it’s tough not resting as much in between training but I’m getting used to it. But I’m enjoying the challenge; sorting Jacob out before I train in the morning, coming back for his lunch then we nap together, so that helps. Then I like to give him his bath-time and tea before I go training in the evening. It’s all busy-busy but good fun and he’s a really good laugh.”

Following a caesarean section, Pavey attempted to return to training a month after the birth but struggled; especially as the operation wound would shake during impact:

“The treadmill at home was helpful,” Pavey divulged, “Running on an incline didn’t jar it (the wound) as much and I didn’t aqua-jog like before Jacob, so I was mainly going on the bike and gradually increasing the running. It was very busy as I was still breastfeeding so I’d take my phone to the treadmill and sometimes Gav would phone me to get me to come back. I didn’t get much sleep to begin with but now he’s into a sleep routine. I didn’t have any definite plans; I just did what I could to get back fit again.”


After taking the whole of 2009 off through pregnancy, Pavey returned to competition in April; albeit a month ahead of schedule. After answering an SOS call from race organisers, the 2004 Olympic 5,000m fourth-placer endured somewhat of an adventure just to get to the start-line in Dublin for the BUPA Great Ireland Run, as Pavey revealed:

“I wasn’t planning to run in Dublin but I answered the call and thought it was a great opportunity. We left Kelly Holmes’ 40th party at 10:30pm and had to get a train because there were no flights, what with the volcanic ash then we were stuck on the motorway until 3:30am in our costumes – me as a medieval princess and Gavin as a knight.”

The 2007 World 10,000m fourth-placer continued: “On the M25, we were getting strange looks whilst getting snacks from the boot of the car. It was quite an adventure, really and when we finally got to the hotel, I only got a couple of hours’ sleep then had to get up for a four-hour train and a 3-hour ferry. I didn’t expect it to be such an escapade but it was fine and it was good to get back racing. I was pleased – it was good to blow the cobwebs and it was good to not have to worry and count down the days as it was suddenly there.”

One month on and Pavey - who now trains alone as Gavin is now charged with babysitting duties - returned to the roads to test her fitness against a top international field in the BUPA Great Manchester Run a fortnight ago.

A race in which she was victorious in 2007 and 2008, respectively, Pavey finished fifth and clocked 32:42; a time similar to her appearance in the Irish capital and almost a minute outside of her best from 2007 – evidently, there is still plenty of hard work to be done but the new mum is definitely heading in the right direction.


On her current level of fitness, Pavey; who won European cross-country bronze in 2004 and Commonwealth silver in 2006, seems content and realistic:

“I’ve put in some hard training recently. Mentally, I’ve come back happy, now running as a mum. They say having a child makes you stronger so I’ll have to see. I’m enjoying having him in my life – my life feels more complete, I’m so much happier in myself and that can only be good for my running.”

A prodigious youngster who broke the British under-15 1,500m record after only five-months of training, Pavey emphasised the importance of ignoring pressure to perform by listening to the body after childbirth:

“Initially, I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible for me to a spring marathon but in February, I realised the mileage wasn’t there so decided to take my time and do what I could do. When you’ve been running for so many years, you know when your body’s coping and when it’s not so I enjoyed the time with the new baby and made my way back into it.

I always made sure my heart-rate wasn’t above 140bpm and kept hydrated and well-nutritioned and really listened to my body. There were lots of things I couldn’t do like core exercises so we really read into it a lot, as of course the baby was always the priority. I kept running until four weeks before the birth then aqua-jogged to keep fit; it was such an exciting time, as I’ve always wanted a baby – I’m enjoying the challenge of both.”

Barcelona beckons?

With one major ambition already filled, Pavey’s attentions now turn to her athletics aspirations; namely qualifying for the European Championships in Barcelona this July, with a view to tackling her debut marathon in the autumn.

A five-time national 5,000m and two-time 10,000 champion, Pavey goes in search of the 10,000m qualifying time for the continental championships in Ostrava on Thursday, before pulling on a GB vest for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics – where she finished 12th in a best time of 31:12.30 despite suffering from a stomach problem - in the European Team Cup in France over the same distance next month.

“There aren’t many track 10,000m opportunities available so it means I have to try to get the time in May or June,” Pavey explained.

“I need to crack on to achieve that then my thoughts can turn to trying for a marathon after the summer – but I’ve not decided exactly when yet. I’m not sure about the Commonwealth’s (in New Delhi in October) as it may clash with this aim. The big aim’s the marathon in 2012 so I’ll need the necessary training to target that; it’s an exciting challenge.”

And if anyone can return from childbirth quicker and happier than ever to achieve her goals, it will be this ‘super-mum’.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Haile Impressive


After amassing no less than twenty-seven world-records during two decades at the pinnacle of their sport, most athletes would think it is time to put their feet up but then again, Ethiopian distance-running legend Haile Gebrselassie is not like most athletes, as Nicola Bamford found.

The 37-year-old world marathon record-holder is a true smiling assassin. With a broad, twinkling smile wherever he goes, Gebrselassie also knows when to knuckle down to serious business and it is this winning mixture of part-showman, part-ferocious competitor in his affable personality that makes him all the more successful in life.

As busy away from the sport as he is during the road race season, Gebrselassie cuts an intensely focused, determined yet modest figure in and out of the spotlight. The ultimate achiever in sport and in business, the two-time Olympic 10,000m champion is evidently content with both of his careers and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Very Busy

The Emperor, as he is affectionately known in athletics circles, has as usual, started the year with a bang. With classy wins in Dubai and Madrid during the spring, the month of May not only witnessed the opening of Gebrselassie’s five-star hotel in his homeland but also the retention of his BUPA Great Manchester Run title:

“We had a very good race to celebrate the opening and it was a wonderful time,” Gebrselassie explained. “I’m really happy, as I’ve been building it for the last three years; spending a lot of time there. It’s not easy building a hotel; it’s something that will keep me very busy from now on.”

Busy is not the word for Gebrselassie, as he juggles two demanding lifestyles with him when constantly travelling the globe in search of even more athletic success. He appears addicted to winning and succeeding against the odds and is an icon in Ethiopia for using his fame and wealth for the good of the nation.

After claiming his third 10km title in Manchester over a classy international field in a wind-affected 28:02, the four-time World 10,000m track champion said:

"I thought I might have gone much faster but the conditions weren't helping me. But this was an important win and I feel there is more to come in the future.” The 5ft5 athlete continued: “Now I'll think about my next races after speaking with my manager. But to win a third title in Manchester has always been my ambition."

Hectic Lifestyle

So for ‘Geb’ it is now back to Ethiopia for a combination of lung-quenching training, the management of his business empire which brings much-needed mass employment opportunities to his countrymen, and a chance to spend quality time with his family. This is a man after all, with such a tireless work ethic, that it literally is, all just in a day’s work for a global superstar.

Despite still managing a hectic lifestyle, Gebrselassie is adamant that his running is still the main priority: “My life has changed (since breaking the world marathon record in 2008 at aged 35 with 2:03:59),” Geb revealed.

“Now, I will still get up early then train but now I go for a little work, afternoon nap, work some more and then it is family time.”

Evidently with the same steely determination to succeed as when he used to run 10km to school and back each day, which led to his left arm being crooked as if still holding his school-books, Gebrselassie speaks with the same enthusiasm for his running as he did at the peak of his track career at the turn of the decade:

“Training’s very good. I’m ok, I’m training well and I’m trying to minimise my speed-work to stay away from injuries. I’ve been doing about 130-miles each week. Training really has been wonderful.”

Having arguably the world’s greatest distance-runner for a father must be a huge inspiration for his children, despite his globe-trotting?

“My eldest daughter (aged twelve) is gifted; she’s talented but she’s told me she doesn’t want to run.” Gebrselassie explained with not a hint of disappointment. “The other girls are ten and eight – the ten-year-old sometimes runs to school and my son is four. It’s normal to be away from them as I travel the world but they watch my races on the Internet and come to watch me in the big races.”


A four-time world indoor champion over 1,500m and 3,000m and even a world cross-country medallist in the early 90’s, Gebrselassie, who surprisingly suffers from asthma, has been asked many times about retirement which does not enthuse him in the slightest:

“People keep asking me why I keep running and when are you going to retire but I say no, I don’t want to retire. You can’t plan to retire – if it comes tomorrow, I do not care,” he revealed with an air of contentment.

On how he motivates himself to keep attacking his global bests, Gebrselassie’s showman-type personality shines through:

“(I do it) when I want an adventure; to have a kind of pain and to show and surprise people. We haven’t decided which races to do for the rest of the year yet but I will have the marathon in either Berlin, New York or Boston in the autumn.”

One would expect ‘Geb the Great’ to have run out of goals on the back of such a long, illustrious career but the prospect of competing in the London 2012 Olympics and improving his marathon time even further is just too tempting:

“2012 is my big aim – the marathon, but hopefully no pollen,” Gebrselassie revealed, as the British capital is not kind to hay-fever sufferers in the spring/summer-time.

“2hrs will be very difficult,” Gebrselassie explained. “For future generations; possibly. Maybe in 20-30years. If I continue to train well, I can run 2:03- 30-something – that is my aim.”

That certainly would be a ‘Haile impressive’ end to an astonishing sporting career.

Quiet Ambition


Quiet, modest and even shy, his personality is the opposite of the archetypical bold, brash sprinter; yet American Tyson Gay prefers to let his legs do the talking and 2010 is the year the world number-two 100m man has a steely ambition to rise from the ominous shadow of a certain Mr Bolt, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 2007 World 100m and 200m champion has been reduced to the understudy role in global sprinting for the past two years, partly down to the phenomenal record-breaking exploits of Jamaica’s triple Olympic and World champion, Usain Bolt but also courtesy of his reluctance to thrive in the media and athletics spotlight.

The 27 year-old from Kentucky claims his humble approach to coping with global superstardom comes from his mother:

"It (the attention) makes me smile, sometimes it's overwhelming a little bit because I'm just a country boy from Kentucky, who just runs for the love of track. My friends and family know that I don't like to be the centre of attention but the victory lap after the 100m in 2007 is one I will never forget."

19.41 World Best

Gay ran a blistering 9.71 in the World 100m final in Berlin last summer, only to once again play second fiddle to his young, tall Caribbean rival, who continued breaking his own sprint bests for fun with a 9.58 apparent dawdle in August.

But now fully-recovered from the groin operation he had last autumn, Arkansas-based Gay is determined to capture the unofficial world’s fastest man title this year; albeit in a far more focused and unassuming manner to that of Bolt; the clown prince of the track.

"I don't have a sharp pain with it (the groin) anymore, but I still have some minor niggles in training,” Gay explained. “My faith’s helped me through the injury and through the pain.”

Evidently in a clean bill of health last weekend, Gay; coached by Lance Brauman and Jon Drummond, sped down an artificial 200m straight at the Powerade City Games in Manchester city centre to break the world best in a scintillating 19.41.

Such a fine early-season performance will have undoubtedly alerted Bolt and his compatriot Asafa Powell; Gay’s two main challengers for supremacy and boosted his confidence in terms of achieving such lofty ambitions when tackling the pair later this summer.

Mouth-watering clashes

After breaking legendary Thommie Smith’s 44-year-old global mark by a tenth of a second, Gay said:

"Going into the race I knew it was going to be tough to beat the record. It was pretty hard for the first 100m or so and I was extremely tired. Kim Collins (runner-up) had an excellent start and I think that motivated me to get down the street. It was truly amazing and it was tough record to break."

After only less than ten days of speed-work and a couple of sessions back in spikes since the summer, Gay will now knuckle down to hard graft ahead of a mouth-watering clash with Bolt in New York next month, in addition to at least another two head-to-heads with the Jamaican duo during the IAAF Diamond League in the 2010 campaign.

Indeed, Gay’s season got off to an eye-catching start when he took to the 400m for endurance work last month; clocking a surprisingly-quick 44.89 over the one-lap distance thus becoming the first man in history to go under 10-seconds for the 100m, 20-seconds for the 200m and 45-seconds over 400m.

“Sub-45 was run by accident and it felt really good,” Gay revealed. “I did the 400m for fitness and to help my 200m.”

All the more evidence that Adidas-man Gay is set to rock the proverbial boat this summer and potentially end Bolt’s precession of victories.


Gay, too is the type of character that thrives on pressured confrontation. A dogged determination and a calm outlook, the 2007 IAAF World Athlete of the Year is evidently relishing the chance to prove his return to top-flight sprinting can cause shockwaves throughout the sport once again.

"The change in mentality in me was huge after Berlin," Gay explained. "There's a little pressure there, anytime you run against Bolt it's a pressure. But I want him to bring the best out in me. If he does that then hopefully I can PR [personal record] in both (the 100m and 200m)."

“I’m very driven to beat Bolt and give the fans a good show. I believe I need him to run fast – I proved I can run my best against him. I’m trying hard to get level and beat him. We have a mutual respect for each other.”

Gradually climbing out of his illustrious counterpart’s shadow, Gay tries to ‘zone out’ of the constant comparisons in the media circus that surround the duo and has a strong belief that he will soon reclaim his world’s fastest man title.

"It hurts me to hear he's unbeatable but it makes me train harder. It motivates me to do what I have to do,” Gay explained. “I believe I can beat him, but he's going to be tough to beat. Honestly he's in another class right now but I'm working hard to get there. The challenge is for me to work hard to get to where he is at.

"Sometimes it crosses my mind (that Bolt is unbeatable) but you can't listen to the critics. I just try to stay in my room and stay away from the blogs and all of that. To win means more to me than a fast time any day.”

Winning means more

Trying his best to avoid the uproar over his fiercest rival, Gay also accepts the fight for global supremacy is not just a two-horse battle:

“Asafa’s definitely a threat because he's had the world record before. He knows what it feels like to run a world record so I wouldn't sleep on him. He knows what it takes to break records.”

Also believing he still has the talent to win is his biggest fan, Gay’s nine-year-old daughter Trinity: “I’m travelling the world and my daughter can respect me and see my races on You-Tube; she sometimes comes to the bigger races, though. She started running this year and is doing really well.”

Not quite as well as Daddy, though – yet, who knows?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Thommo's Surprise


Hitting back against claims that British male endurance-running is at an all-time low, Chris Thompson caused shockwaves throughout European athletics earlier this month, to register the third-fastest 10,000m in British history, Nicola Bamford writes.

For 29-year-old ‘Thommo’, as he is affectionately known in athletics circles, his scintillating 27:29.61 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Stanford, USA at the turn of May, has been a long time coming.

His 25-lap track debut; performed in the swiftest time by a Brit since Jon Brown’s 27.18.14 in 1998 and ahead of legends such as Brendan Foster and Dave Bedford was however, a very welcome surprise to all including the man himself.

Thompson revealed: “The result has been something I’ve been searching to do for so long now. I think anyone in any sport will say performing well is so much sweeter when you have come through tough times. I feel that drove me sometimes to think I was trying to do something that was definitely against the odds.


The affable and modest athlete continued: “Time was running out for me to find some consistency in training and that definitely plays on your mind. My confidence, though, over the last six-months has grown and grown; as I kept putting training together that I had never been able to do, in volume, consistency and quality.

A long period of consistent training and healthy body was evidently all that was needed for Thompson’s breakthrough:

“Before, a lot of people questioned my abilities because I could run ok and they would assume that was as good as it was going to get for me. However, you never get to see what goes on behind the racing unless you’re involved. I would say to people ‘just give me time’, but not through their fault, would laugh at me but people around me and myself knew with time, I would be able to jump forward.

I started to get itchy feet wanting to race but I knew I needed more time to build a base for the long-term aims in years to come and get back a lot of what I’ve been missing. I was over the moon with the time. I certainly got overly-emotional about the whole thing, but it has been a long, painful road.”

On his new-found specialist event, Thompson continued: “10,000m is new and I had no idea if I would be strong enough to hold a pace throughout. But to get a result like that makes me feel like a new athlete entering into the sport and ready to press on like I wish I could have done five years ago. Better late than never, maybe even a better age for me to be running well now than before.”

Support team

Coached by Mark Rowland in Oregon, USA where he is based for much of the year, Thompson’s sharp progress in the past few months follows a lowly 55th in the European cross-country Championships last December.

Thompson; who last competed for Britain in the 2006 European’s; finishing 10th in his 5,000m heat, improved to seventh in the BUPA Great Edinburgh international cross-country in January and to a 28:02 10km personal best on the roads of Manchester in March, to show he was at last, poised for something special – should he stay injury-free.

It has been the dreaded ‘I-word’ that could have so easily ended Thompson’s career years ago, were it not for his dogged determination:

“I definitely felt like quitting many times,” Thompson explained, “Being in the doctor’s room and being told I needed another six-weeks’ rest can only be tolerated so many times. Sometimes I would be told to cross-train, then cross-training would cause a problem so I aqua jogged –even that caused issues at one point. It was just stop-start all the time.

Never gaining any sort of momentum, I would try to enter every injury with a positive mind-set and try my best to do all I needed to do, but my body just didn’t fancy it. The hardest thing was definitely starting to get going, run ok, race ok, then boom back to nothing again.”

After finally overcoming his injury woes to perform to his potential, Thompson praised the support he received in his second-home over in America: “I would never have been on any start-line if it wasn’t for the team of people keeping me going over the years. I also have a lot to thank my girlfriend Jemma Simpson (GB international 800m runner) for. She has been an amazing support and has been the icing on my cake in running and in my life. She is priceless; I also try to make sure I support her athletics as best I can, we certainly have a good team bond.”


A prolific junior and the 2003 European under23 5,000m Champion over fellow Brit, Mo Farah, Thompson’s potential to be a world-class athlete has never been in doubt – his health, however, was always another matter.

While Farah progressed to compete on the Olympic and World stage and collect European track and cross-country silverware, Thompson’s path took a very different route since their exhilarating contest seven years ago.

Years of injury battles ensued before the Aldershot, Farnham and District runner finally showed what he can do following a spell of uninterrupted training. In a message to Farah; long considered Britain's number one long-distance prospect, Thompson's eye-catching form is the fastest by a European for almost two-years and; as his times leads the rankings, will most certainly establish himself as one of the hot contenders for gold in this summer’s continental championships in Barcelona.

Best shot

Such a breakthrough could not have come at a better time either; with the European and Commonwealth Games later this year providing a platform to the 2011 World Championships and ultimately, the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Thompson explained his chances: “It (no.3 Brit all-time) is something I feel very privileged to have achieved especially looking at some of the names on the British list. Now I have to put it to the back my mind, because you put yourself in the firing line with regards the Euro rankings.

I have played my hand going into the Euro champs for people to try and match and beat. I have to now go away and make sure I’m in that form again, come game time. I feel like this year I’m giving myself the best chance I can to have a good Euro champs, that’s all you can do, give yourself a shot.”


Thompson is aware of the pressure to now perform on the international stage and remains humble yet ambitious about his new chances and aspirations:

“My goal for 2010’s firmly on the 10,000m at the Euro champs,” Thompson revealed. “I’m not ignoring doubling with the 5,000m but I’ll see what happens as the season unfolds. The Commonwealths is on the radar, too but not a certainty or a must for me.

“With all that’s happened over the last month, I feel like my aims keep changing all time as I feel more and more is possible. I need to keep my feet on the ground with a lot of it. But still a top-eight at 2012 would be amazing.”


Eager not to rest on his laurels and get too carried away, Thompson appears optimistically cautious and grateful, with a new zest for the sport which has treated him so unfairly for years. The love affair, it seems, will not end just yet.

“After 2012 – and I never would have thought I’d hear myself say this - but maybe I’ll try the marathon, who knows. If I’m not injured you never know what’s round the corner. As long as the sport makes me happy I’ll do it, but at some point I’ll have to stop and get a secure job and make a family.

Although this form will be a big challenge to maintain and move on from, it’s a point I never thought I’d get to, so I’ll face it will a smile and be happy to know I made it further than I thought. It’s an opportunity I’ll give one hell of a shot at and be happy when’s it’s all said and done.”

Friday, 7 May 2010

Out of Africa


In order to get over the heartbreak of a lacklustre Olympic performance and career-threatening injury in the 2008/9 season, a trip back to her roots was all that was required for Leicester’s finest hockey-player, Crista Cullen. Currently fitter and more rejuvenated than ever, the 24-year-old defender spoke to Nicola Bamford about her African adventure and hopes during a busy international 2010.

A British international for the past seven years, Cullen is an inspirational national captain to say the least. Playing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a fractured wrist (suffered in a match in Holland when her stick broke in her hand) the London-based athlete went through the pain barrier, courtesy of pain-killing injections to lead Team GB to a solid sixth-place in the Chinese capital.

Cullen explained: “I hadn’t trained hard for four-years to miss the most prestigious sporting event in the world. Though we were ranked seventh in the world, the team was disappointed” – it was then that Cullen decided to take an unusual gap-year to rehabilitate.


Rather than putting her feet and drowning her sorrows, she returned “home”, as she calls it, to Kenya for some much needed ‘R & R’. Born in England to African parents and raised in Kenya until aged-twelve, Cullen revealed:

“Kenya will always be home and every chance I get to have a break from work or training, I’ll try to jump on a plane.”

Not quite as glamorous but far more exciting, Cullen chose to escape her injury disappointment by driving a motor-home along the east coast of Africa with her best friend from her university days:

“After Beijing, I decided to go back – it was always a dream. I did a short mechanic’s course and kitted out my vehicle as a mobile home. At first it was all sun, sea and sand but then it was the rain season and we got caught in a flood ahead of a collapsed bridge we needed to cross, so I used three canoe boats to drive across. Overall, we spent just over three-months travelling about 25,000km.”

Amazing lifestyle

Her father; a former golf-pro, owns the luxury Hemmingway’s hotel in a Niarobi resort and her mother; a former squash-pro, runs the family home – a 20,000 acre ranch in Kenya. Even elder brother Gray is an international rugby player.

“When I’m home, I live in a big tent with its own bathroom in the garden. Behind the wire fence, there’s a watering hole where hippos and giraffes will drink from at all hours – it’s an amazing lifestyle, so different to the ‘rat race’ in London.”

It is in the British capital where Cullen works part-time as a consultant for Sports Recruitment International: “It’s a really cool job,” Cullen explained, “there’s so much understanding and their support has been second to none. I’m lucky to have fallen on my feet.”


Indeed, the trip seems to have done the job and now fully-rehabilitated, Cullen is back to splitting her time between working in the city, training with the GB squad in Bisham Abbey and remaining loyal to her other roots; Leicester hockey club:

“I will never leave Leicester,” she continued, “I try to play with them every weekend and I’ll always remain there.”

Speaking with immense passion for the game which has seen her twice named among the World 11 All-Star team, Cullen spoke of the successful training set-up that she thrives on:

“We’ve got into a centralised training programme in Bisham Abbey in preparation for 2012 and train as a whole GB squad. It’s been really good to get into the nitty-gritty of plays, as we’re together so much. It’s exciting times for such a young squad.”

Gruelling year

Training on the pitch and in the gym several times a week and using video and technique analysis in practice, Cullen continued: “It’s important to keep our fitness really high this year, as in a typical tournament, we’ll play seven games in eleven days and we have three big tournaments this year.”

In a gruelling year of competition, Cullen and co will battle it out in the Champions Trophy in Nottingham in July, the World Cup in Argentina in Aug and the Commonwealth Games in India in October. The squad will also hope to improve on their bronze medals from the latter two competitions in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

“We must be realistic and make our form count when it matters and do some good set pieces,” Cullen insisted, “the priority will be the first two tournaments, where we can get world-ranking points. I’m very excited, especially about Nottingham as it’ll be brilliant preparation for 2012 on home soil. I think we can do well in all three tournaments – anything can happen and I hope to be selected for them all despite them being in quick succession”

50 caps

Fit and raring to go after being warned she might never play again whilst in hospital in Beijing, Cullen will hope to continue her fine vein of form through the action-packed season and celebrate her 25th birthday with a top performance in Argentina.

The outlook too is good, as the outgoing and modest athlete recently took her 50th international cap whilst playing against the Chinese at Bisham:

“I’ve been lucky to be exposed to hockey from quite an early age,” she explained, “I was 16 when I got my first GB cap and now I must have over 100 international caps. Now, there are lots of opportunities to represent your country in hockey – I’ve been pretty lucky to be fit and able to represent GB so many times.”

And what an excellent job this adventurous young woman is doing, as she leads the way for Team GB to chase their Olympic dream in two-years’ time.