Home Nations golds for Emma Olifent and Danny Bell
Two of Rugby’s hockey club goalkeepers are enjoying international call-ups for England Masters teams - both winning gold in the Home Nations at the weekend.
Emma Olifent and Danny Bell - who both play for Rugby & East Warwickshire’s 1st XIs - have been selected to represent their country, a fantastic achievement for them and the club.
Emma is in her second year with the England Over 45s, having become the first member of the club’s ladies’ section to play at international level, while Danny is delighted to have been selected for the Over 40s.
He was part of Rugby’s successful Masters team which triumphed in the Tier 1 National Over 40s Cup final last month at London’s Olympic Park.
Emma said: “It is an immense privilege to have been selected for the second year to represent my country in England Masters hockey.
“Since I was first selected, I have won a gold medal at the Home Nations tournament and I came home from the World Championships in Spain with a silver medal.
“Our women’s club coach, Sue Sutton, has pushed me to reach the standards where I could be considered for selection, and without her expertise and support, I feel I would not have achieved the successes I have today.
“Training and playing at an elite level has taught me so much and improved my confidence on the pitch.
“This, in turn, has benefited my game play within the club and has played a part in our ladies 1st XI success with a fourth consecutive promotion this season.”
This was recognised when Rugby & East Warwickshire Ladies 1st XI were crowned Team of the Year in the England Hockey awards.
At the Home Nations at Southgate hockey club, London last weekend Emma’s Over 45s team won all three games (2-1 v Ireland, 2-0 v Scotland and 2-0 v Wales) and contributed to the clean sweep for England across all age groups - O40s, 45s, 50s, 55s and 60s.
“It was a fabulous weekend of hockey and great preparation for the Europeans in Rotterdam,” she said.
The championships will take place from July 22-27.
“We will be playing the French, German and Irish in our group and then we’ll have two more games after that to determine where we finish - hopefully with a gold medal!”
Other countries competing in women’s O45s are: Wales; Scotland; Netherlands and Spain.
While Emma has been playing hockey in goal since she was a 14-year-old at school, Danny is a latecomer to the sport.
“My hockey adventure started after retirement from a semi-professional football career,” he explained.
“After looking for something to do on a Saturday I approached Rugby’s hockey club seeking a goalkeeping role.
“It didn’t take long to see that football and hockey goalkeeping were pretty similar, apart from the hockey ball hurting a lot more when it somehow misses all the padding and catches the top of your knee!
“After a few seasons I was put forward by the Midlands Hockey Manager for England trials.
“After three years of hard work I have finally broken into the main squad for the Home Nations, where I was very proud to achieve a gold on my first appearance.
“My journey now continues with the step up to the over 45s England side and a chance to get to the World Cup in South Africa in 2020.”