For Team Scotland’s female Hockey players, it’s already been a packed four months of full-time training and competitive tournament action in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The members of Scotland Head Coach Gordon Shepherd’s squad were able to take a short-term sabbatical from their full-time professions and university studies to focus on international hockey thanks to sportscotland’s Athlete Personal Awards, a move that the team hope will pay dividends, as Dundee Wanderers’ star Vikki Bunce was keen to emphasise;
“We’re really, really excited. It’s been a really good spring and summer so far. We’ve been training full time, it’s been going really well and we’ve gelled brilliantly together as a team. We’ve just come back from a tournament in London, where we put in some really good performance. We’re all raring to go from the first whistle in Glasgow.
“Everyone knows how much hard work every single person has put into preparing for Glasgow, from the team management to the players. We’re now just really excited, we want that opportunity to go out there and show what we can do.”
For Bunce, this will be her third Commonwealth Games having represented Team Scotland in Melbourne and Delhi. Indeed, it was the midfielder’s performances in India that caught the attention of the Great Britain selectors, who invited her to join the London 2012 Olympics performance programme at Bisham Abbey.
But it’s playing for Scotland in a home Commonwealth Games that gets the Dundonian talking effervescently;
“Delighted. It’s always an absolute honour to get selected to play for your country. When anyone asks you about it you get a big grin on your face and a little bit of butterflies in your stomach because it’s so exciting.
“We had the Champions Challenge in Glasgow during April, when there was about a thousand people there on the busiest day and it was an amazing atmosphere. Now to think what it’ll feel like to have five or six thousand people there is just something special.
“To have a home crowd behind you, knowing that they are there and with you, it’s almost an extra player. It will hopefully be a wonderful experience.”
The Scots find themselves drawn against Australia, England, Malaysia and Wales in the hockey competition at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre, with the team targeting a place in the top two of the pool to ensure a semi-final place and a crack at winning a medal.
It’s a tough proposition though; Australia were runners up to the Netherlands at the recent World Cup and England remain a formidable opponent despite a disappointing result in the World Cup, finishing ninth. Malaysia and Wales will be no push over either.
While Bunce is cautious, she remains optimistic about the team’s chances, “On any given day, any team can go out and deliver a good performance that leads to a good result.
“It will be tough, Australia have just finished second in the World Cup, England did not have such a good World Cup but are definitely bouncing back from that based on what we experienced and what we saw of them at the Investec Cup.
“At the moment, it’s very much just focussing on the job in hand. I know that reaching the semi-finals would be extremely exciting and rewarding to know that all the work we’ve put in has paid off.
“But at this point, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We will just focus on the processes, and put in the good performances, score some goals and the next part of the tournament will take care of itself. If we go out there and play the way we know we can play, then anything is possible.”
But just what would it mean to the High School of Dundee teacher to have a medal around her neck at the end of the tournament?
“I don’t think there is any words to verbalise that one. It would be the highlight of anyone’s career. And it would emphasise how hard we’ve trained and how much we have worked as a team to get here. We’ve dreamed that it’s possible and we’ve gone out there and proven we can do it.”
You can follow Vikki Bunce on Twitter @VikkiBunce
Photo credit: Andy Kerr/ Scottish Hockey