British women’s hockey coach Danny Kerry has declared that the Japan side who are the first obstacle on his squad’s gold medal quest on Sunday night will have gained nothing from their pre-Games strategy of extreme secrecy.
The world’s ninth-ranked nation have disappeared off the radar and played no games since qualifying for the Olympics, allowing Kerry no chance to prepare a specific tactical plan. But Kerry insisted that "the only things you can squirrel away are little set-pieces," he said.
GB’s Helen Richardson has revealed that the squad had, in any case, been preparing specifically for the south-east Asian threat – with Korea and China also in their group - by re-enacting the way they play in that part of the world. "The Asian teams play in a similar way overall,” Richardson said. “So in our training matches we practised 11 versus 11, with one team playing as the other nation to get used to how they play. That will help us get into our groove and get that first game under our belts.
It is the physical and mental conditioning that makes the women, with injuries concerns of defender Crista Cullen and forward Alex Danson behind them, a better bet than Jason Lee’s men for gold.
“You can see by looking at the girls, especially when they've got their kit on, there will not be a better conditioned team at the Olympic Games," Kerry said. He admitted that his players had “hated” him for forcing them to perform improvised comedy in front of the men’s squad, to strengthen them mentally. “They couldn't see the parallels," he said.
Captain Kate Walsh said the psychological strengthening allowed each player to know what another was thinking under pressure. "In tough games you just know by the look, it's that level of communication," she said. "You can know what do I need from you now, what you need from me?"