Kate Walsh is arguably one of Great Britain's best ever hockey players, having captained the national side for almost a decade. Support through Sport UK finds out how Kate's managed to stay at the top of her game for so long and how preparations are going for London 2012 ...
You made both your England and Great Britain debuts in 1999 and now, 13 years later, you're about to captain the GB team at their home Olympics. How have you remained at the pinnacle of your sport for so long?
I think I have a competitive nature and am often my own worst critic. I will be able to tell you every mistake I have made after an international match which helps me improve the next time I go out to play. The most important thing I have learnt, however, is not to dwell on these mistakes for too long. Learn, move on and stay confident with your strengths. This is sometimes easier said than done but I believe it has been key to my development over the years.
Winning a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games (which were held in Manchester - Manchester being Kate's hometown) must have been special. How would it feel to emulate, or better, that success in London? And does competing in front of a home crowd make you more excited or more nervous?
Competing in Manchester was very special as many of my friends and family who hadn't seen me play before came to watch England play down at Belle Vue. That tournament is bitter sweet in the memory though as we won the silver medal and lost the gold to the Indian women's team. When I think of the Commonwealth Games back in 2002, I think of the warmth of the crowd and the amazing volunteers. I know it will be much the same in London this summer. As a squad we have such fantastic support and we feel that this lifts us as opposed to wearing us down. Competing in front of a home crowd is rare pleasure and we will thrive on it in London. We will be giving everything in pursuit of our dreams and that is why I believe the crowd will be proud of us every time we step onto the blue pitch.
In January this year the GB women were runners-up in the Champions Trophy (the International Hockey Federation's most prestigious annual event). That must give you some confidence going into London 2012?
The silver medal in Argentina was record breaking and was the result of a very professional and disciplined tournament performance. Again going into a tournament everybody wants to win and so to come so close to gold was hard. It has spurred us on to train harder post Argentina and helped continue the positive momentum that we have been steadily building since 2010.
What are your thoughts on the Riverbank Arena (the London 2012 hockey venue) and the snazzy colour of the pitch?
The colour of the pitch in London is bright blue with pink around the outsides. It is very striking and will be the first time a colour other than green will be used for the hockey surface at the Games. The colour change along with the change of ball colour to yellow allows for better TV viewing. As a sport we really want to raise the profile and any way we can make it more spectator friendly the better. If you look at a bird's eye view of the park your eye is drawn to hockey which for us is very special.
You recently met another Kate on that pitch. You and your team must be pleased that the Duchess of Cambridge - a genuine hockey lover - is acting as an Ambassador for the Games?
To have the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William as Ambassadors for the Games is a tremendous honour. The Duchess was obviously really keen to get on the pitch, meet the players and have a hit around. She was captain of her school team and clearly has a love of the game. It was really lovely to meet her and a massive bonus for hockey worldwide as it made front page of many global newspapers. My sister, an ex-hockey international herself, who lives in Holland said that a picture of the Duchess playing hockey made it into Grazia magazine over there.
What are your plans post 2012 and what would you like your sporting legacy to be?
I'm going to leave my post 2012 plans open at the moment although a well deserved holiday will definitely be on the cards! I would love the legacy of the Games to be many thousands more people picking up a hockey stick and playing the sport I love so much. GB hockey have been very proactive with their Hockey Nation programme providing people with lots of different avenues to get involved in our sport. Hockey really is a game for everyone, all levels, ages and abilities.
And, finally, apart from the hockey, are there any other sports that you're particularly looking forward to seeing in London?
We always joke that you will miss the Olympics if you are competing in it. Hockey is played over the whole two weeks of the Games, seven games in eleven days in fact. The thing I look forward to the most is cheering home successful GB athletes as they return to our base in the village and being part of something special.
Helen Keeling initially interviewed Kate for womensportreport.com.