Doncaster’s Barry Middleton is on a mission this summer to finally get his hands on an Olympic hockey medal – but the experienced international knows there is a job to be done first at the upcoming Champions Trophy in London.
Middleton England’s most capped international, can already boast an impressive international record including Commonwealth Games bronze, European gold and World League bronze.
But despite three Olympic appearances – at Athens, Beijing and London – he is yet to record a podium finish at a Games – agonisingly missing out on bronze with a fourth-place finish four years ago on home soil.
The 32-year-old is currently back at the London Olympic Park for the Champions Trophy with Great Britain’s first game against Australia this Friday - and knows he can’t afford to let his mind wander to Brazil just yet.
“The Champions Trophy is a big tournament. It’s tricky because obviously everyone has one eye on the Olympics but in terms of hockey in general, the Champions Trophy is massive for us,” he said.
“Confidence is high, we’ve been building to this summer for a long time so we’re just looking to carry on what we have been doing in the games we have played over the last two or three months. We want to prove how good a team we think we are.
“This tournament isn’t about Rio. I don’t believe that how we play here will impact how we will play at the Olympics, this tournament is about this tournament and we want to go and win it.
“For me, the Olympics is about winning things. That isn’t necessarily the Olympic spirit but for me, this will be my fourth Games but I don’t have a medal to show for it.”
“When you’re at the Olympics, it is everything. It’s something you dream about, and when international hockey players talk, the conversation always comes back to the Olympics.”
Holcombe midfielder Middleton has plied his trade at a number of club sides throughout his career while he also turned out for Loughborough University where he studied sports science.
Over 60 per cent of gold medallists since 1992 have participated in BUCS sport, with 56 members of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics competing for Great Britain at the World University Games.
And Middleton insists the experience of playing at BUCS level is one that cannot be underestimated.
“I played one year of BUCS and for me, it was good to have the opportunity to play hockey while I was at university and to have it taken seriously.
“It gave me something to focus on other than my international hockey, but for others, it was good for them because it enabled them to keep playing hockey when they weren’t quite making the national standard.
“I remember playing in the final against the University of Birmingham, and 10-15 of the players on the pitch that day became full internationals.
“It just shows how much of a place BUCS has. When I was growing up, it was a big thing.”
* British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, representing more than 150 institutions. Covering 52 sports, BUCS aids grass roots participation through to supporting aspiring elite athletes en route to Commonwealth or Olympic Games www.bucs.org.uk