Time out eases Games heartache
A tourist trip to Croatia and Italy for New Zealand captain Kayla Sharland helped purge the disappointment of finishing fourth at the London Olympics.
So did being picked as one of only six to represent the 10,820 athletes at London at the closing ceremony.
After brief stopovers with family in Palmerston North, Sharland is off to Christchurch for a couple of job interviews and to join her rugby-playing partner George Whitelock.
Sharland was distraught after losing the bronze-medal playoff to Great Britain at London.
The 26-year-old isn't saying but it might have been her swansong after playing continually for the Black Sticks since she left Palmerston North Girls' High School in 2003.
Her immediate goal is to relax, "chill out and do nothing" and strengthen that troublesome left knee which has pained her for six years.
Before the closing ceremony, the International Olympic Committee picked six countries to choose athletes to present flowers to six volunteers chosen from the 70,000 at London. The New Zealand team plumped for Sharland.
Hockey players around the world have told her how special it was for the sport.
The New Zealand Sky TV commentators failed to notice Sharland.
"We were pretty nervous," she said.
"We went back-stage and then all of a sudden we were out there.
"I got told pretty late and didn't know what to expect."
Her parents watched it on television at Kuala Lumpur airport.
Sharland scored four goals at London but it was the penalty shootout against the Dutch which cost them a medal. She said the Black Sticks had practised shootouts the day before the semifinal.
"That was the first time for us in a penalty situation," she said.
"The Dutch had had them two or three times before and experience comes with that. We'd had chances during the game to seal it as well.
"Everyone was saying it was the best game they'd ever seen."
It still left her with mixed emotions. Her lowest was coming last at the Beijing Olympics, the highest reaching the semifinals at London.
"It sucks to come fourth and be so close and not come away with anything," she said. "Everyone was pretty disappointed after putting such a lot into the Dutch game and not firing in the last one.
"We will look back and be happy where we have come from.
"It was totally unexpected to be in the top four, coming off sixth. We performed the best we ever have at the Olympics Games; we gave it a good nudge."
She predicts the next team to the Rio 2016 Olympics will be special because so many of the current team are so young.
- © Fairfax NZ News