Hockey: Walsh beats the drum as England prepare to put down 2012 marker

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The Independent Online

England captain Kate Walsh believes the build-up to the London Olympics begins today – more than 12 months before they open – at the Champions Trophy in Holland.

Although not competing as Great Britain, the majority of the 18-strong England side in Amsterdam are in contention to go to their home Games.

Good performances over the coming days will not only strengthen their chances, but could ensure Great Britain have a spot at next year's Trophy, played annually by the world's top eight nations, as part of their Olympic build-up.

Last year, Danny Kerry's England side finished third in the event – their first of a trio of bronze medals, with the others coming at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup – as 2010 proved successful for the side. Walsh admits they have to maintain their progress with an even bigger year coming up. "The question is, can we maintain what we did last year and improve it and, if there is a drop-off, can we use it positively to push on for next year?" said the Reading defender.

England start today against world champions Argentina, with other matches against South Korea and China from which they need to gain enough points to make the route to the semi-final more comfortable.