Eva de Goede’s shot thuds into the pads. There’s a brief pause whilst everyone in The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre processes what’s just happened. Maddie Hinch takes off towards the sideline, shedding her gloves, helmet and elbow pads as she runs, before sliding to the floor and being engulfed by her jubilant team mates. England are European Champions.
I often think back to that wonderful day in 2015. The day where Maddie Hinch proved to anyone who had the cheek to doubt it, that she was the best goalkeeper around.
Obviously, the Olympic final is the most acclaimed title of Hinch’s career, but that 2015 Euros win will always stick out in my memory – after a few silver and bronze medals, finally a gold. The one that started it all.
It’s hard to put into words just how much of an impact Hinch has had on goalkeeping and indeed hockey. You can list her achievements including being a three time FIH World Goalkeeper of the Year but a mere list of medals doesn’t really tell the whole story.
Hinch played 186 times for England and Great Britain after making her international debut in 2008 aged 19. The introduction of the shootout in hockey as opposed to the old style penalty strokes allowed Hinch to showcase her agility, speed, bravery and iron will in the most pressured of situations. I referred to her once on Twitter as like having a “cheat code” when a match went to shootout and for a period of time, she seemed to be invincible.
The 2015 Euros allowed people a glimpse into what she could do, but the Olympic final, watched by nine million people on TV in Britain and the cause of delaying the news at ten catapulted Hinch to super-stardom.
As someone who plays in goal, I’ve been told for my whole life that “no one wants to play in goal.” Been told that “you couldn’t pay me to do that.” and been told “you have to have something wrong with you to play in goal.”
After that night in Rio, suddenly kids wanted to put the pads on. Suddenly, because of Maddie Hinch, goalkeeping was cool. I cannot stress enough what an achievement that actually is.
I was lucky enough to train with Maddie once. Whilst I was playing for Marlow she came down to one of our men’s sessions for some extra shooting drills. She must have been wondering what on earth I was doing. Instead of swapping in for my turn in each of the exercises, I found myself just watching her and thinking “how is she so good?!” I missed several shouts of “whenever you’re ready” because I was mesmerised by how easily she was saving every single shot. I probably spent less than a quarter of the session actually in goal.
After a break from hockey in 2018, Hinch returned to collect another Olympic medal – a bronze in Tokyo and then she completed the set at the Commonwealth Games where she added a gold to the silver and bronze already in her collection. It’s fair to say there’s very little left for her to achieve at this point.
“I didn’t know when I would feel that the time is right. You have to give 100%, so for me I would be frustrated if I wasn’t living up to that.”
“I made a promise to myself that when I’m no longer putting 100% in, then I’ll stop and hand the number one shirt over to someone else.”
“It’s nice to feel so content with the decision and be excited for the next chapter. I’m leaving at the top of my game, on my terms. I feel grateful for that opportunity. I know friends that have not had that luxury, so it’s a nice place to be when you just know. And now is the time.” she tells BBC Sport’s Jo Currie.
They say each player should aim to leave their sport in a better place than where they found it. Maddie Hinch has unquestionably done that. What a career. The greatest.
Never to be forgotten
Great reading Ross. Maddie was a joy to watch!