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Golden Opportunity - Naomi Van As, hockey

Olympic Review continues its countdown to the 2012 Games with exclusive interviews with stars of three more of the 26 sports on the programme, who are targeting gold in London. Naomi Van As, the golden girl of Dutch hockey looks ahead to defending their Olympic crown in London in two years time.

How did it feel to score in the Beijing Olympic final and then win gold?
The fact that we had achieved our goal took a few days to sink in. When I watch the game again I still get goose bumps. It was a long time ago but I still get the same feeling every time.

What do you think of London hosting the Games?
I love London! I have only been there once though. There are so many people and the shopping is amazing! With all the world’s best athletes in one place, the atmosphere is incredible and I am looking forward to being in an Olympic village again. It’s great that the Games are in London, people can travel from Holland very easily, so there will be lots of support for us.

Will it be more difficult for you this year as defending champions?
It’s always difficult to defend a title, we have a lot of fresh faces including a new coach and we have to take one step at a time. It’s not a negative for us, we don’t let these things go to our head. We have a lot of work to do but I am looking forward to it. It was definitely the coolest thing that I have ever done!

How big is Hockey in Holland?
A lot of people play hockey in Holland but soccer is still the biggest sport by far. The Olympic Games do bring the game of hockey to a larger audience though. Hockey is getting bigger all the time and media attention is growing too.

When did you start to play hockey?
My mother played and I used to play around with my little hockey stick when I went to watch her. I started to play when I was six although becoming a professional was not anything that I dreamt of, even when I was selected for the Dutch youth team at the age of 13. I was just playing because I loved it. When I turned 18, I began to realise that I could represent Holland and then four years later we won the World Cup.

Did you always dream of becoming an Olympian?
I was very sporty when I was younger. I would always play outside but I didn’t watch a lot of TV. My earliest memory of the Olympic Games was watching the swimming when Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn won gold in Sydney in 2000.

How does an average training week work?
During the club season, we train three days a week with the national team, two days with our clubs with two days rest and a club game on Sunday. In the build-up to a tournament, we will train every day together as a national team.

Where do you have to be strongest to be an international hockey player?
We do a lot of work on our core stability so that we can be strong on the ball and stay on our feet under pressure. I was always fast with the ball but you have to be able to take the physical impact too, especially against the British girls!

Who will be your most dangerous rivals in London?
Australia will be strong in London as well as Argentina, China and Germany. London 2012 may come too soon for the British girls though.

What music do you like to listen to?
I generally listen to chart music like Cheryl Cole.

Enjoy the e-zine version of the Olympic Review here!

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