Rayer on target as Great Britain's women win Olympic bronze

Maidenhead’s Ellie Rayer opened the scoring as Great Britain’s women defeated India 4-3 on Friday to win bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rayer, Sarah Robertson, Hollie Pearne-Webb and Grace Balsdon were on target for Team GB as won a medal at their third consecutive Games, following the bronze medal success at London in 2012 and the unforgettable gold medal they won in Rio four years later.

However, they had things far from their own way as India showed terrific character to battle back from 2-0 down to make it 3-2 just before half-time.

Those five goals were scored inside a frantic five-minute period, with Rayer and Robertson making it 2-0 before India rallied to hold the lead at the half-time interval. Pearne-Webb got Great Britain level five minutes after half-time with a powerfully struck shot and Grace Balsdon’s low drag flick at the start of the final earned Great Britain a place on the podium.

It’s the first time Great Britain’s men or women have won medals at three successive Games, and the feat is even more impressive given the high turnover of players from their gold medal success in Rio.

Rayer had a shot from close range superbly saved by the outstretched boot of the Indian keeper, but the former Claires Court School student was only warming up. In the second period she flew down the by-line and flashed the ball towards goal only to see it diverted into the net by an Indian player.

Maidenhead Hockey Club coach Shona McCallin then played a perfectly weighted ball into Robertson who rifled the ball off the post with a sublime reverse stick finish.

A brace of drag flicks from Gurjit Kaur saw India bring the scores level and Katariva slotted home after a scramble inside the circle to give India the lead a minute before half-time.

Sarah Jones did superbly to create the chance for Pearne-Webb to restore parity with an unstoppable shot.

Maddie Hinch thwarted India from a penalty corner as they looked to restore their advantage, and GB went on to take full advantage when Balsdon fired home a drag flick which went through the legs of the Indian keeper.

The team included Maidenhead-based players Rayer, Hinch, McCallin, Hannah Martin and Giselle Ansley.

Speaking afterwards Pearne-Webb said: "I’m incredibly proud of the squad. To the 16 who played and will get a medal, but also the three reserves who deserve a medal, plus the players at home not selected. We have 26 in the squad but so many more not selected. We've had a lot of turnover in the last five years, I wish they could all get a medal because they deserve one. That's why we're here and how we've achieved it.

"It's been a tough five years, at times we doubted whether we could do it, but we have.

"It's so hard to sum it up. We've not had many highs in this cycle, and after winning in Rio, that's the biggest challenge. To bring a group all together after so many challenges, I can't even remember them all! We've sacrificed so much to perform as best we could. A few months ago, an Olympic bronze was just a dream but I'm so proud we've done it.

“There’s been so many challenges, I can’t recall them all. Not just collectively as a team but individually as well. It’s been tough for everyone back home in the last 18 months and that’s been the same for us. Some of the girls, myself included, haven’t seen our families for over a year. We’ve been locked down, Christmas on our own, and we did that because we wanted to come here and give the best performances we could.

“An Olympic bronze a few months ago was in our wildest dreams so I’m just so proud of the whole squad, the whole support staff, everyone that’s been involved that we can come away with something from here.

"At half time it was just a big deep breath. Go back to our game and believe in ourselves. We came out in the second half really well."

Starting XI: Hinch (GK), Unsworth, Toman, Martin, Townsend, Robertson, Rayer, Ansley, Pearne-Webb (C), McCallin, Owsley

Subs: Jones, Petter, Wilkinson, Crackles, Balsdon

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