England hockey newcomer attributes success to his upbringing on the farm


England hockey tyro Fiona Crackles feels like she’s reaped the benefits of growing up on a farm in Cumbria.

The Olympic bronze medalist, who spent her childhood on a dairy and sheep farm near Kirkby Lonsdale, has been chosen to represent the host country at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

During her short time at international level, Crackles carved out a place for herself as a tough and hard-working midfielder, values ​​which she says were instilled by her farming upbringing.

“Farming is an integral part of who I am,” said the 22-year-old.

“It’s just what has been normalized since I was a child, Easter holidays are not Easter holidays, it’s lambing times which are probably the most tiring time of the year.

“My parents never sat – when you sit, you eat and that work ethic became normalized from an early age.

“I try to be serious and work hard and I always hope to stick to those qualities. I feel very lucky to have grown up where I grew up, I am a very proud farmer’s daughter!

Having attended Queen Elizabeth School, Crackles is a rarity in the upper echelons of state-educated English hockey. Half of the women’s squad that won Olympic gold at Rio 2016 were educated at fee-paying schools and the majority of Premier League clubs are in the south-east of England.

True to character, Crackles, who went to Durham University and now plays club hockey for Wimbledon, relished having to walk out the door.

“I didn’t think being from the north of England would benefit me as a player,” she said. “It always seemed to be an obstacle.

“You have to travel a bit further to get into the top clubs and in a way it’s harder. I just took it as fuel to motivate me to improve and bring those fighting qualities.

“I’m very lucky to have what I have and you have to use it to your advantage. I found other things I can contribute and these are now my strengths.

Crackles is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes in the world-class program funded by Britain’s National Sport Lottery, allowing them to train full-time, have access to the best coaches in the world and benefit state-of-the-art technology, science and medical support.

She found favor with former England manager Mark Hager and took advantage of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, making her international debut at the end of 2020.

She was catapulted into the squad for her first major, the European Championships in June 2021, and then to the Olympics where she helped Team GB bring back bronze.

Now under manager David Ralph, England welcome four debutants to their 18-man Commonwealth Games home squad.

England won silver in Glasgow and bronze on the Gold Coast four years ago, continuing their superb record by reaching the podium at the Multi-Sport Games.

“It’s amazing to be part of a team that’s been so successful,” Crackles said.

“I think a great thing about every Games is that it’s a whole new girl group. I guess there is this perceived pressure to get medals, but each group brings new assets and skills.

“It would be amazing to win a medal, but we’re all at the start of a new Olympic cycle, a new journey, so there’s no pressure.”

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