By Hannah Blackwell
Welsh duo Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson will return home from Tokyo as Olympic medal winners after Great Britain beat India to earn bronze.
The pair played their part as GB came from behind to clinch a dramatic 4-3 victory in Tokyo.
It completed a 15-year mission for Jones and Wilkinson who were overlooked by GB for years as they racked up Welsh caps before finally joining the GB squad for this Olympic cycle.
Jones said: “It’s an amazing feeling. To have this with Leah feels so special.
“We can look back on this in years to come with our grandkids and tell them, ‘we won a bronze medal at the Olympics together!’”
It means that Britain was able to retain a place on the podium after the 2016 Olympic champions were beaten in the semi-final earlier this week by the Netherlands.
Goals from Ellie Rayer, Sarah Robertson, Hollie Pearne-Webb and Grace Balsdon held off a spirited India comeback.
Team GB have now won women’s hockey medals in the past three Olympic Games, with this latest honour adding to bronze at London 2012 and gold at Rio 2016.
It was the nation’s 52nd medal in Tokyo, meaning Team GB have now exceeded the 51 they won at Beijing 2008.
Captain Pearne-Webb, 30, from Belper, said: “I’m incredibly proud of this squad.
“We’ve got 16 here who are going to get a medal, our reserves and those back at home and we’ve really relied on everyone in this squad.
“I wish every single one of them was able to get a medal, that’s why we’re here, that’s why we’ve achieved it.
“It’s been a tough five years. Really, really tough. We’re all still here because we all had that little bit of belief deep, deep down.
“There have been times over the years where we’ve doubted if we could achieve this, I’m just so pleased and proud of everyone that we have.
BRONZE MEDALISTS 🥉🇬🇧
— Hockey Wales (@HockeyWales) August 6, 2021
“After winning and achieving the biggest dream, that in itself is the biggest challenge. To bring a group of girls that have watched that, altogether, there have been so many challenges along the way.
“That’s both collectively as a team and as the individuals as well.
“Olympic bronze, even just a few months ago, was in our wildest dreams. I’m so proud of all the girls, the whole squad, the whole support staff that have been involved.”
Team GB sealed bronze in a pulsating medal match that sparked into life in five frantic second-quarter minutes, producing four goals.
Two Gurjit Kaur goals from penalty corners inside 100 seconds cancelled out Rayer’s deflected opener and Robertson’s fine reverse stick effort.
India took a 3-2 half-time lead through Vandana Katariya but Team GB bossed the second-half, skipper Pearne-Webb slapping home a ninth international goal and Balsdon converting a penalty corner to wrap up the win.
It was a third Olympic medal for Laura Unsworth and a second for Pearne-Webb, Susannah Townsend, Giselle Ansley, Shona McCallin, Lily Owsley and double shoot-out hero Maddie Hinch.