London 2012: Injuries fail to halt GB's Anne Panter

Great British hockey player Anne Panter has staged a comeback from a knee injury even more remarkable than the team's rise in the sport.

The 28-year-old from Wellingborough returned from two-and-a-half years on the sidelines to help GB to a bronze medal at the 2011 European Championships and silver - their first ever - at the recent Champions Trophy in Rosario.

Given that she had previously spent 18 months out after a car crash prior to the 2004 Games, you might reasonably ask if giving up had crossed her mind in the past decade.

"I've gone through the stages of feeling very sorry for myself and asking 'why me?'," Panter told BBC Look East.

"But towards the end of my second injury, I realised that those thoughts were really unhelpful. Of all the things that can happen in life to people, having injuries that stop you playing sport isn't the worst.

"It felt devastating, but I had a choice. I could decide to do everything I could to make it back to playing.

Anne Panter Factfile

  • Age: 28
  • Home town: Wellingborough, Northants
  • Clubs: Kettering and Leicester
  • Position: Defender
  • GB caps: 44 (1 goal)
  • England caps: 51 (3 goals)

"A lot of things that I've learnt during that time have made me really tough and really strong."

She had contributed to a bronze medal at the 2007 European Championships and a credible sixth-place finish at the Beijing Olympic Games. The knee injury, coming as Panter had re-established herself in the GB team, was debilitating.

"Even if it never got me back to international hockey, the operation was still the right option to take. At that age, I needed to do something which would give me a knee I could live a normal, active lifestyle on.

"I never let go of that hope that I could get back to playing hockey for England and GB."

During Panter's rehabilitation, the team were flourishing. Great Britain were competing with the world's best teams - the Netherlands, Germany and Argentina. And this was just five years after GB had failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Games.

Danny Kerry's side took bronze medals at two Champions Trophy tournaments, the 2009 European Championships, the 2010 Commonwealth Games and one at last year's World Cup.

Panter needed to not only recover sufficiently to get back to her old level of performance - she needed to catch up. And, in 2011, she did.

Mel Clewlow, the former GB player and BBC pundit, has paid tribute to that effort.

"She's done exceptionally well to even be up for selection," said Clewlow. "She's been to Beijing and has that Olympic experience, so as long as she can stay fit, she's in with a shout of the 2012 squad."

The University of Nottingham graduate prefers to focus on the sacrifices everyone has made in the GB squads.

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I remember falling in love with the Olympics and just thinking that was what I wanted to do

Anne Panter

"I am incredibly grateful to the people who helped me get back to where I am. There's no way I could have done it on my own," she said.

"But everybody has their own story. Whether it's times of having not been selected, whether it's their own injuries, or personal things that have been really difficult, everybody here trains equally hard and has put in the same amount of effort to be here.

"I'm one of those 28 girls training to try to win gold at the Olympics.

"Silver [at the Champion's Trophy] has turned out to almost be a disappointment and it's driving us on in these last final months before the Games to make the improvements that will see us go one step further."

The Olympic squad of 16 will be selected after their final major tournament, the London Investec Cup [5-10 June].

"We have this amazing environment where we drive each other on to be the very best we can be. Whichever 16 do end up playing, they'll know it's down to what those 28 have done across the last three years."

Team GB's position as medal candidates is a credit to individual and collective hard work. But after all that has happened, Panter remains grateful for the opportunity.

"I remember watching the 1992 Barcelona Games as an eight-year-old, falling in love with the Olympics and just thinking that was what I wanted to do," she says.

"There's moments from Beijing that will live with me for the rest of my life, but we finished sixth.

"We've been training on that pitch at [London's] Olympic Park and when you're imagining what it's going to be like when this 16,000-seat stadium is full of home support, cheering the GB team on, it will be incredible.

"Our generation are incredibly fortunate to be able to compete in a home games."