Interview: Nicola White, Olympic Gold Medallist

For my Magazine Journalism module, I interviewed Olympic hockey player, Nicola White. I was creating a fitness magazine, making her an ideal interviewee to discuss her career, and training schedule.

The athlete and the GB hockey team won the gold medal in the Rio Olympic Games 2016. I felt extremely lucky to be able to interview such an inspiration to society, especially as we are both from Oldham, a town in Greater Manchester.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Olympic Gold Medallist: “I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and joy”

Nicola White is sat looking down in admiration at the immaculate, gold medal which hangs around her neck. She is dressed from head to toe in her training outfit. Her gleaming smile shows her determination and success of what she has achieved in 2016.

The down-to-earth hockey player still sounds surprised at the fact her and the rest of the Great Britain, history-making, women’s hockey team achieved gold in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games this summer. She speaks humbly about her journey to this point.

Aged 28 years-old, the sport star has come a long way from where she first started. The double medal Olympian began playing hockey at her school, in Oldham, as a young girl aged seven.

“I knew from an early age I wanted to win an Olympic gold medal, in what sport I did not know.

“I played hockey as part of my P.E. lessons in school and just really enjoyed it,” she said.

Nicola explains how she has always been into sports but was never sure which sport she would commit her life to. Choosing between two activities which she has a talent for proved a difficult decision to make.

“I have always been very sporty and so naturally I had a talent for it.

“I loved to dance. I went to a local dance school from the age of about four and the only reason I ever stopped was because the hockey and school sports got too much and so I didn’t have time to fit it all in as I got older..

“I don’t think I ever believed I could win an Olympic gold medal at that age, it was purely something I wished I could have,” she said.

Faced with many obstacles along the way, the journey for Nicola has not always been so straight forward. With the time ticking away, Nicola thought her dreams were going to be shattered. She failed to break in to the junior international games at the age of 18. Worrying that she may have missed her chance, it wasn’t until the year after she finally succeeded.

“It was difficult to keep believing that my time would come one day to show what I could do.

“It was a close call between carrying on with the hockey and changing to Athletics. Thankfully I got that one chance I needed and haven’t looked back since,” she said.

As well as training to be an athlete, Nicola began a degree in Sports Science at the age of 18 at Loughborough College which she completed in 2013.

White made her first senior international debut for England against Germany in 2009, aged 21. Finally on her feet, the determination and hard work was beginning to pay off.

Three years later, Nicola was one of the youngest members on Great Britain’s hockey team at the London Olympics in 2012. The team managed to win the bronze medal which at the time was a great achievement for them.

However, Nicola explains how everything is tailored towards winning the gold medal. Although pleased with their efforts, the team were not going to settle for bronze.

Quickly enough, the next Olympic games in 2016 had arrived. Fortunately for Nicola, her family travelled to Rio to support her and the team whilst they competed. She explains how this is extremely important to her. Because she has such a hectic, busy life, moments like these are something she would always want to share with her family.

“Arriving in Rio, like any tournament, the hard work is done so it just about getting used the competition pitch and just getting your last bits of confidence ready for the main event.

“It was extremely hot in Rio compared to England, so we had to get used to that. But you do become acclimatised very quickly and with our team being so physically fit, it is much easier to cope with these stresses,” she explained.

Great Britain made it to the final where they played the Netherlands. The hockey team finally accomplished what they could only dream of winning, gold.

Nicola said: “It is a special time with your teammates as your dreams and aspirations individually and as a team have just been fulfilled.

“I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and joy but it is also quite emotional standing on the podium singing the national anthem.”

Although the athlete has had her ups and downs during her lengthy career in hockey, she knows it has all paid off.

“There are many standout memories you carry with you as an athlete whether they be good or tough lessons learnt and I got a flashback of all these moments in seconds,” Nicola said.

The family-orientated athlete describes herself as a ‘family girl’ and speaks of how she misses them when she is busy training and travelling to the different competitions. However, her family and friends have supported her through every step of her profession.

“I can’t thank my family and friends enough for their support but I know they have loved every minute following our successes over the years and this is the icing on the cake,” she said.

“My family are super proud of the GB women’s hockey success in Rio.

“It is a fantastic reward for all the parents as they were an integral part of our journeys when we were younger trying to break into the international setup,” she said.

Nicola has always grown up, admiring her idols, in hope to be as successful as them one day.

“Dame Kelly Holmes and that era of athletics inspired me to have this dream from watching them on TV and compete in past Olympic Games.” She said with a smile on her face.

White is now an inspiration to the younger generation and is admired by many for her dedication to being an athlete. Whilst working hard to maintain her fitness, and keep up with training sessions with her team, the sports star visits many schools across England.

“I love being an ambassador for our sport and inspiring youngsters is very rewarding. Their faces light up when they see the medal and it makes all our efforts even more special.

“I think it is important for athletes to give back and make varying appearances as it keeps you realistic about the world we as athletes live in, how systems change and the youth talent coming through,” she said.

Many people would not expect an athlete’s training to be a full time job; however, they would be surprised.

Nicola said: “In essence it is a nine till five job every day, encompassing a lot more than just the hockey. We workout every day, twice a day.

“In total we have to fit in five pitch session, three gym sessions, one extra running session and one club game every week. On top of this we have many meetings as a player’s squad and as a wider programme to check in a review where we are at.

“We also have lots of support services that we must proactively access and hit targets with such as, Nutrition, Psychology, Physiotherapy, Video Analysis, lifestyle,” she said.

No surprise that the response Nicola has received from Great Britain has been ‘phenomenal’. For an athlete to accomplish their dreams at the age of 28, and to become such an inspiration to society, Nicola and her team certainly deserve it.

“Hockey is well and truly back on the map after Rio and people have really warmed to us as a team and a sport. The numbers show that hockey is on the up with more juniors and women playing.

“The support and buzz for us all since we returned home is so humbling and as an athlete it makes you feel so proud to bring home a gold medal to great Britain and a nation that has cheered for you to succeed. “

Nicola, who is 29 in January, has a massive decision to make by the end of the year. The sports star is unsure whether to continue to train and participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 or to retire and begin a new career.

She said: “I will be happy with whichever pathway I choose. I trained so hard to achieve my dream of winning gold, which was been unbelievable. Can it get any better than that?”

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