Katie Shanahan on a midfielder who has 72 caps for her country but is keen for higher honours
We talk to Sarah Jones, flying the flag for Wales in the GB squad
NOT only is Sarah Jones now playing in a team that last summer were crowned Olympic champions, but she also has the added pressure of flying the flag for her country.
Jones has 72 caps for Wales to her name and those performances for her country saw her selected to join the Great Britain central programme for the new Olympic cycle under Danny Kerry.
She is not alone either, with goalkeeper Rose Thomas and defender Daniel Kyriakides also making it through the GB assessment period for the women’s and men’s teams respectively that ended in December.
That means that Wales have a three-strong contingent in the Great Britain set-up, with their last representation coming from London 2012 bronze medallist Sarah Thomas.
And 26-year-old Jones is determined to show just what Welsh hockey is all about, with the side still in the mix for 2018 Commonwealth Games qualification.
“I am still completely chuffed,” she said. “Even though it’s something that I have been working towards for quite a long time, I don’t think I ever really expected it to happen.
“So yeah, it was quite surprising news and when the email came through I was very surprised but happy. I think it’s really nice as the last person to be involved in the GB squad was Sarah Thomas in the London Olympic cycle.
“I am pretty proud that me, Rose for the girls and Dan for the boys got selected, and hopefully it shows that Wales have come a long way.
“Also, the fact that we had other people trialling shows how far we’ve come, as we have been building like this for the past six years or so.
“I think there has been a change of mindset in Hockey Wales to get more people through to the Great Britain programme and to be fair, they’ve got three people in and that’s quite successful.
“I’m definitely proud and I’m also quite excited to learn things from Great Britain hockey to take back.
“For me, when I was younger, I learnt so much from the Wales senior girls, and now I’m one of those, so hopefully Rose and I can take things back and the next generation can learn from us.”
Despite being eager to get going in the GB set-up, Jones joined the squad late as she was helping Wales’s women to finish fourth at the World League 2 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, back in January.
Wales made history when they qualified for Round 2 in September, and their subsequent performance in Malaysia suggests a bright future for a squad who are eyeing the Commonwealth Games and hoping to qualify for the event, which takes place on the Gold Coast next year.
“We played well in Kuala Lumpur, we did better than we were ranked,” Jones added. “It was a first time in such a big event for a load of us and apart from a couple I don’t think anyone had played outside Europe before.
“It was all completely new – playing against Asian opposition is completely different to what we are used to, it’s like playing a different sport.
“Playing against them was hard, but I think we did well. We also put in some good performances against Italy and Ireland who are ranked a lot higher than us. I think it showed we are learning quite quickly.
“It’s just a shame that between January and April – because of funding and time – we don’t get more time together and it almost feels like if we have time apart we might take steps back.
“So hopefully when we get together in April we can build
Learning curve: World League 2 was a major challenge for Wales midfielder Sarah Jones