- 19 Aug 08, 04:51 PM
Out with a bang? Or out with a whimper? It was frustrating to watch GB's hockey hopes fade. For all the excitement of the game against Australia, the men subsided with that draw against Canada - a country better known for their skills on the ice.
And the women's path was blocked by a stubborn but limited USA side. It's hard to shake the feeling that opportunity was knocking.
Ranked eighth and 10th in the world respectively, Britain's men and women will claim with justification to have made progress here in China. They each hope to finish in fifth place, which would be a significant achievement in the wider scheme of things. They are making headway.
Four years ago in Athens the men finished ninth, and the women failed to even qualify. We must be pleased that the direction of the curve is upwards.
Given the way the men played against Pakistan, the Netherlands and Australia, there is justified hope. The women's comeback against Argentina offered a similar feeling. They were beaten only once in the pool - and that was by the reigning Olympic champions Germany. No disgrace then.
And yet. When the chips were down, and they needed to pull out performances to keep them in the hunt against sides that were there for the taking, both fell short. Danny Kerry's women were restricted by precious little movement off the ball, and a worrying tendency to surrender possession.
They seemed to be operating with a predictable, structured gameplan and were lacking in devil up front, bar the excellent Sarah Thomas.
The men were brighter, industrious and often threatening - but the positivity and channelled aggression which marked their matches aganst the big guns wasn't sustained.
Jason Lee told me some of it was down to fatigue, some to the rarified pressure of an Olympic Games. Many of them are young, and will emerge better and wiser. The penalty corner routine needs work. Even accounting for his score against the Aussies, Richard Mantell will not look upon the Games as a success.
From the start, expectations have been played down here in Beijing. The attitude has been one of fulfilling short-term targets rather than shooting for the dream. You can understand why.
Years in the hockey doldrums have taught the coaches and management to be realistic, and build slowly. It is an entirely sensible policy.
I do not question the commitment and desire of those involved in GB hockey. Anyone who saw the emotion etched on Kate Walsh's face at the end of the match with the Americans will know what it means to care.
Likewise the passion and drive of the men in their fantastic draw with Australia. But a small part of me feels that maybe more room needs to be made for the unrealistic, for the dreamer - if only to allow the precious ingredient of belief the space to grow.
Sometimes extraordinary things happen to ordinary people, ordinary teams. Teams who believe, teams who are bloody-minded - and yes, teams who get lucky. It wasn't to be. Maybe it will all come good in London in 2012.
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