GB golden girl Susannah Townsend on life after Rio
Susannah Townsend: on post-Olympic blues, cupcake courses and what the future holds
Six weeks on from making British history with her team-mates and best friends in Rio, where TeamGB women’s hockey team beat the Netherlands on penalties, Susannah Townsend has had a lot of time to reflect on how far she has come and what the future may hold.
“We laughed off the possibility of post-Olympic blues, thinking we would still be on that high but we were very much wrong”.
On achieving her ultimate aim of an Olympic gold medal, she says, “it’s a goal you set yourself even when you’re not training, it’s in the back of your mind and it’s the little decisions like ‘should I have full fat or semi skimmed milk’ that don’t make a huge difference but which do add up. So when you don’t have that focus or goal when you get back its quite a scary time.”
Now that Rio is in the rear view mirror, the whole ‘what do I do now’ question must be daunting to say the least. The initial phase of loss is over and Susannah has a lot to look forward to and aim for.
Susannah does have long term goals; Tokyo, a home world cup and the Commonwealth Games in Australia to aspire to, she has now enrolled at St Mary’s University, Twickenham to complete a Masters in Sports Journalism. All whilst undergoing rehabilitation from a knee operation she is scheduled for this week.
She explains “I contacted them [St Mary’s] a year ago but I wasn’t in the headspace to be able to concentrate on something other than playing my hockey…but now my circumstances have changed”.
Susannah also says she wants to be known as “more than just hockey player". She is well aware that even international hockey is not the Premier League. In football you can retire quite comfortably at 26 should you wish to do so, whereas if you retire from hockey at 26 with nothing else lined up you’re going to struggle to have any form of a comfortable standard of living going forward.
To deal with this, England Hockey have provided the athletes with a lifestyle support coach, who meets with the players whenever they want, to help with their CVs, getting work experience, internships and generally encouraging the players to stay in education.
The players all also receive a small grant to put towards their education and Susannah once spent some of this on a cupcake course. Alas Susannah will not be the next judge on The British Bake Off, but her desire to one day present Match of the Day and having spent time with journalists and broadcasters alike and seeing their lifestyle, has all conspired to lead her here to St Mary’s.
Yet looking back on her career so far, Susannah reveals it hasn’t all been fairy cakes and rainbows, she lost out on being selected for the London 2012 Olympics. “In hindsight, I wasn’t ready and I wasn’t defensively good enough” Susannah explains.
Since then however, the biggest impact upon her and difference in her life, has been in how she dealt with things from a psychological point of view, both in her approach to her own mind-set and her own attitude to her game. The disappointment of London made her look at and gave her the opportunity to review at a lot of aspects in her game and her personality.
Ultimately, it was this setback that eventually made her into a better player and the Olympian she is today.
It has taken Susannah a lot of trial, error and practice, to refine her own routine before a game. “I go over and practice everything internally, I look into every eventuality that could happen and I know that if I stick to those processes I will always have a solution if something goes wrong”.
Susannah is proud of how she has improved both herself and her game over the last four years and has a lot of faith in the system. “You can’t underestimate the power of psychology in sport and if you can’t cope with that then you will never be at the top”.
With her new found mental and physical approach in place, Susannah is treating her upcoming knee operation and rehabilitation as another challenge and is far from it being a negative in her life. She is taking it as an opportunity to be able to complete a Masters’ Degree, learn more about the game from a tactical viewpoint and of course to have more time to perfect her cupcakes.