Slocombe's cruel end

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The Independent Online
Sue Slocombe, a guiding force in British women's hockey since 1983, looked fresher than she ought to have done given what she had just been through. She had something on her mind, and a cause can dispel fatigue and disappointment.

Minutes after Britain had been denied a second bronze medal in two Olympics by losing 4-3 on a penalty stroke shoot-out after drawing 0-0 in normal time, she announced her retirement by calling for a massive input of support to put domestic women's hockey at least within touching distance of other countries.

"I've been coaching at international level for 13 years. I'm 47 now and I need a break," she said noting that Australia, South Korea, Spain and the United States are operating full time while British players are fitting in their hockey around careers.

"We have achieved this with very little support. The British public should be proud of this team."

Proud indeed because of a party of players who had not been rated had gone mighty close to winning a medal. Having held the Dutch for 70 minutes, the debilitating effects of eight games in 12 days finally showed. They were tired flicks that were saved from Karen Brown and Kathryn Johnson.

The latter will be remembered because, like Gareth Southgate's penalty- kick in Euro 96, it was the one that counted.

"I decided I wanted to be one of the takers if it went to penalties, and I had positive thoughts going through my mind as I went up to take that one but the shot was too high," Johnson, who was a member of the bronze winning Barcelona team, said. "I hit it well enough but it was supposed to go about a foot off the ground and it was about a foot too high. I'll be waking up for months now thinking about it."

She should not because, as Slocombe pointed out, but for Johnson's and Brown's efforts in defence the match probably would not have got as far as the penalty strokes. The Dutch were the better team forcing eight short corners to Britain's one.

"Penalty strokes is the most horrible way to go out," Slocombe said. "These girls have grafted very hard. To expect them to produce good hockey in their eighth game in 12 days is beyond belief. No other sport in the world would demand that. You could see tired legs in both teams."