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Great Britain's players celebrate Barry Middleton scoring during the Pool A match against Argentina at the Hockey Centre in the Olympic Park during the third day of the London 2012 Olympics. Pic: Stephen Pond/PA
Lee Power, at the Riverbank Arena, Stratford
Monday, July 30, 2012
Harry Martin feels training on the ‘smurf turf’ at Old Loughtonians banished any early hiccups
Harry Martin shone on his Olympic debut in Great Britain’s 4-1 win over Argentina and revealed the opportunity for Team GB to train at his club, Old Loughtonians, helped the team hit the ground running.
Old Loughtonians installed the ‘smurf turf’ at their Luxborough Lane home in Chigwell, Essex earlier this year – replicating the experience of the Riverbank Arena.
Subsequently, Team GB have used the facilities as their Olympic training base and were out on the distinctive blue and pink pitches as recently as yesterday (Sunday).
And that extra advantage seemed to pay dividends as Martin and co brushed aside Argentina in Group A.
“Old Loughts is an incredible club and we’ve been very lucky to get the pitches exactly the same as here,” said the 19-year-old.
“It’s pretty ideal, although it’s been quite strange seeing everyone at the club!
“I’ve been very lucky, it’s amazing to play so close to home.”
Martin, who will attend Nottingham University to study economics at the conclusion of the Games, was on the field as team-mates Barry Middleton (2), Richard Smith and Daniel Fox got on the scoresheet to wow a packed home crowd.
And Martin admitted the noise inside the Riverbank Arena helped spur the team on.
“To have so many people watching gave us a real boost. It’s the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in and we all enjoyed it,” he revealed.
“We came into it with a winning mentality and playing attacking hockey. We’re exciting to watch.
“I had my family here and it’s the best experience of my life. My first Olympics and I’m pleased to get into the tournament now.
“It was a very positive performance and I want to try and improve and get a few goals.”
Goalscorer Fox, who plays for Hampstead & Westminster, added: “It’s my first goal outdoors and a great time to score.
“You get a better sense of things when you’re not the scorer, as you have five or six team-mates jumping all over you.
“It was brilliant and the crowd were amazing all through the game. It makes a big difference to play in front of a home crowd.
“There was a lot of anticipation. It wasn’t nervousness, we were willing and excited, but we’re late starting our games. Most in the village have played, and we’d seen the girls do so well.
“At the start you just want to play well and establish yourselves in the eyes of others. Argentina are not ranked that high, but they’re a good side and have beaten some top sides.
“It’s a really good result for us.”