MADDIE HINCH made for a reluctant heroine when she returned to compete in front of a home crowd two years after her stunning series of penalty saves had sealed Olympic gold for Great Britain’s women’s hockey team in Rio.
Hinch admitted she “hated” the inevitable attention that was directed her way from the packed grandstands at Lee Valley, and England’s disappointing World Cup last-eight exit exacerbated a disillusion that led to Hinch taking time away from the international stage.
The 33-year-old has since spoken candidly of the mental health concerns that led her to questioning her future in the sport — and the coping mechanisms she has learned and adopted in order to enable her to enjoy the prospect of returning to centre stage at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“If it was still a problem there’s no way I could have continued,” Hinch told PA Media. “I’m proud of the fact that people are chanting my name because it means I must be doing something right.
“I got it all wrong, I was almost hating the fact that I was in the spotlight. I’m happy that I have it as part of my world now, I’ve just had time to understand it better and deal with it.
“I always use to love it before Rio, when I made a big save at home in a big game, but all of a sudden I started to fear it.
“Thank God in the last few years I’ve managed to sort it out, and I’m excited about hopefully having a few people shouting my name in Birmingham.”
England have won women’s hockey medals at each of the last six Commonwealth Games, but are yet to claim their first gold.
Hinch, who has won a total of 157 caps for Great Britain and England teams, will once again be integral when they start their campaign against Ghana on Saturday.
No longer concerned by the increased expectations that still linger six years on from the Rio triumph, Hinch is determined to use the rest of her career to equip current and future generations with the knowledge to normalise mental health issues within elite sport.
“There’s no doubt that in elite sport you are constantly under a microscope and these are triggers that can force bad days, but I’ve worked so hard off the pitch now that I understand myself more, and I understand those triggers and am able to talk about it,” added Hinch.
“I think we need to change the perception of mental health as being no more or less important than the physical side of what we do.
“I spend a bit of extra time with the psychologist in the same way that a teammate might need an extra bit of rehab for their knees.”
England intend for their hockey campaign to conclude with a gold medal match on August 7, already being dubbed a potential “Super Sunday” for women’s sport with the netball squad also looking to successfully defend their Commonwealth Games title on the same day.