Sam Quek recalls the helplessness of Team GB’s Rio Olympics selection process: ‘My mind was gone’

Elite sports stars are always looking for control, so there is nothing more difficult than the complete helplessness of waiting for selection.

Hockey player Sam Quek, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, knows this better than most, having been on both sides of the equation.

She missed the Great Britain squad in both Beijing and London before being selected for Rio, where the hockey players provided arguably the most iconic moment of the Games when they won gold in a penalty shootout against favorites Netherlands.

Having suffered both fates, Quek understandably has great sympathy for Britain’s Olympic hopefuls as they wait to find out whether they have made it to next year’s Paris Olympics.

She explained what it will be like: “If you are selected as an Olympic athlete to go to Paris, once you are selected, not as a reserve, in the starting team, everything else is lost.” Then you can breathe deeply and concentrate on work.

“In preparation you think about not getting injured, not getting tired, but you want to be on the team and do what everyone is doing. All these things are going on in your head.

“We did a trip to Australia in the lead up to 2015 and I had a very strong trip. I always doubted myself. Then on Monday morning after a weekend trip to the Netherlands we had the selection for the Olympics. We played two friendly matches against the number one in the world. I wasn’t selected in the first game, I was petrified.

“I played on Sunday and didn’t play my best game. This Sunday I got my 125th international match. My mind was gone. Then the selection email came on Monday and I was selected.

“We were constantly analyzing and thinking, maybe thinking too much. But you learn to control what you can control. Preparing for the Olympics is not nice. You thrive under pressure, that’s what you do, but you have no control over anything.”

After being selected, Quek managed to restore that control and help the team win their first-ever Olympic gold in women’s ice hockey.

After Rio, she ended her playing career and pursued a successful career as a broadcaster.

Sam Quek celebrates winning gold at the Rio Olympics

(AFP via Getty Images)

This included becoming team captain on the BBC television program “A Question of Sport” as well as presenting a variety of different sports.

Quek has now been appointed as the new host of the second series of Amazing Starts Here, an award-winning podcast series in which ordinary people do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

She added: “As a former athlete, I have had massive support from the National Lottery to get me where I have. When I came on board I was 100% engaged and interested in where the support was going.

“Whether rightly or wrongly, I was pretty overwhelmed by how many corners of Britain, how many projects large and small and all the different types of people helping in their communities. The people we spoke to are simply amazing, motivated by their past, people they have lived with, seen or worked with.

“The range of different projects was incredible and seeing where the £30m the players raised went was really humbling and inspiring. “I was really overwhelmed.”

Sam Quek is host of the National Lottery’s award-winning podcast series Amazing Starts Here, which celebrates the ordinary people who do extraordinary things using the £30 million National Lottery players raise every week for good causes across the UK afford. Listen to the entire series Here.

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