Leslie gets own thrill
Chris Leslie knows all about the pressure of the Olympics - after all this is his third Games as assistant coach of the Black Sticks women's hockey team - but he's never been as nervous as he was during last night's historic nail-biting draw against Germany.
The former Marlborough player-coach was thrilled with the result which propelled the Kiwis to the semifinals for the first time, their previous best being sixth place.
Speaking shortly after a match which saw for the first time New Zealand take a point off Germany at an Olympics, Leslie said, "That's the longest 70 minutes of hockey I've ever experienced. I felt physically sick.
"Up in the video stand, you can't yell out, you can't do anything. What a fantastic result.
"We always obviously hoped for a medal. Definitely wanted to retain our top six ranking. We just take one game at a time.
"With the team we have it was always a possibility [making the semifinals]. There's still a job to do. It would be a shame to lose now having come this far."
Leslie had particular cause to celebrate given he's in charge of coaching the penalty corner defence and New Zealand came under seige in that department, conceeding seven while forcing three themselves.
"Bianca [Russell, goalie] had a blinder. For us to be able to keep a clean sheet is fantastic. We have various formats to defend. The Germans are a very hard team to scout [plan for] because they have so many variations. We look at their patterns, do a lot of homework. All the planning and preparation paid off."
While the squad will probably have a quiet celebration after making the semifinals, Leslie said it's very much feet on the ground and back to business for the team after last night's epic which he said was very draining for the players against a physical German side.
"We won't rest on our laurels. An early game this morning means we have more time to recover. Some of the girls ran themselves to a standstill.
"We'll do a light training tomorrow, stretch the muscles. To know it's the first time we've taken a point off Germany in a major event, that gives us a lot of confidence.
"Now it's how we handle the situation. The coaches try and keep it low key and don't hype up the occasion." Fairfax NZ
The Marlborough Express