Team GB kicked off Tokyo 2020 with an assured and entertaining 2-0 win over Chile in the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido. With only two days in-between games, some members of the squad kindly took some time out of from recovery on Thursday, to talk to the media.
First up was an understandably happy Lauren Hemp, who was one of the many impressive performers in the team’s opening day win. The Manchester City midfielder’s pace and positivity on the ball, particularly in the first half, tormented Chile’s full-back and helped create many chances, including Ellen White’s opener. So here’s some of what she had to say…
On how she is finding it all:
It’s been really good, I’m loving it, to be fair. Obviously, it’s a bit tough with Covid restrictions but we’re abiding by all the rules and I’m still enjoying it, getting on with all the girls and I’ve loved it since it’s started to kick off.
Before I came I said to myself, “Just be confident, go there with no pressure on you whatsoever, just enjoy it and have the best time ever.” I’ve come here with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in myself and whatever role I play for the team I’ll give 100 per cent to everything I do, whether I play, whether I don’t play. I had a lot of confidence going into yesterday and I hope that’ll continue throughout the tournament.
On how maintaining that confident approach is possibly difficult at times, especially considering her rapid rise within the game: Sometimes, to be honest, I do put a lot of pressure on myself and I then I think: ‘You are still young, you are still learning, you are still trying to get better’. I do forget that sometimes because I like to play my best football every game but we know that’s not going to always happen and it’s not always that easy. But I’ve just come here with so much confidence and even if I don’t get past someone or make the right pass, I’m going to keep trying the things that I know I’m good at and I know I can do.
On her first experiences of playing with Scottish midfielder Kim Little:
She’s really impressive and everyone can see that from her week-in, week-out at Arsenal and it’s pretty incredible to be able to share a pitch with her. Obviously, she’s been at the Olympics before so everyone knows her ability on the pitch and off the pitch she’s someone I’ve learnt from. She’s a bit older and a lot more experienced than I am so it’s nice to absorb everything that she’s doing and learn from her. We get on really well so I’m looking forward to that connection carrying on.
On the conditions within the indoor arena that is the Sapporo Dome (also the venue of their upcoming game against Japan on Saturday):
It was a lot cooler, it’s been about 35 degrees outside when we’re training. Every time we get a stoppage in training we’ve got all the ice packs, all the ice towels and I’m literally covered from head to toe in them because I don’t really like the heat too much. But it’s nice to be somewhere hot rather than England [although I know it’s been hot there recently too]! It was nice to be cooler inside the Dome, it’s an incredible stadium. Obviously, it was sad that the fans couldn’t be there but it was an incredible experience.
On what their recovery day has looked like today [Thursday], given the tight turnaround between games:
There’s about six games in something like 17 days and a lot of tight turnarounds. It’s been pretty relaxed today, we’ve made sure that we recover right, we’ve been eating right and it’s time to relax the legs, sit down and have a break. But we’ve reviewed the game and previewed the next one so we’re ready to get going again tomorrow.
On the various messages from home and staff before the opening game:
We had a nice little montage of clips with our families saying good luck. A bit embarrassing mine was, but it was nice to see them.
My parents were in hysterics because they said they’d done it about 300 times trying to say the same thing but they just kept getting it wrong, they just couldn’t do it! In the end they just sent one of them and it happened to be one where they were in hysterics and everyone was just laughing when they saw it, so I definitely went red.
We had a lot of good luck messages and then the main message from the coaching staff was to believe in yourself, go out and enjoy it. Obviously, for me it’s my first Olympics so I just said to myself go out and enjoy it, be confident, go and do what you do week in, week out at City. Then it’s been pretty positive since we got the win, we’re just itching to go again on Saturday.
On the fact that her performance was a very positive one, from the off. Did she not have any nerves?
Oh, they were there! I was pretty nervous going into the game, to be honest, but I think once I step on the pitch, there’s where I love to be and that’s where I feel myself and feel most comfortable. As soon as I stepped on that pitch and started to kick a ball around, all the nerves just left my body and I thought, ‘this is what I do best so go and show the world’.
On how pleased she was that Chile joined Team GB in taking the knee before the game:
I’m so proud of the squad. There was a strong view that we wanted to take the knee. We respected Chile’s decision, we spoke to them beforehand and were very respectful in that way but we wanted to make sure we did take the knee and we showed the unity because it’s important for people to see that across the world. We took that stance and for that I’m really proud of the team, we’re all in it together.
With respect to Chile as an opponent, on the next two games perhaps being where the real challenges and a gauge of where this ‘new’ team is at:
Obviously, we haven’t been together as a group for as long as what other countries have, but I think week on week, we keep getting better. We’ve been together now for over a month and I think we only keep improving so it’s a nice start to the tournament with a win under our belt. We’re feeling confident, we’re ready to hit the ground running again tomorrow, and hopefully keep performing and just keep getting better and progressing throughout the tournament. As everyone can see, there’s a lot of ability and some fantastic players here. Everyone brings something different. We’re just looking forward to hopefully seeing that flourish and just improving as the games go on.