GB Olympic team-mates Maddie Hinch & Sophie Bray are Dutch rivals

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Hinch and Bray: 'Prince Harry has a lot to learn about goalkeeping'

The medieval architecture and meandering canals of Utrecht in October are a world away from a hot and historic night in Rio. But for two of Team GB's Olympic gold medallists, a little corner of the Netherlands is where they now call home.

It was defending champions the Netherlands who fell to GB women's hockey team in a dramatic penalty shootout in August. The final finished 3-3 in normal time, with keeper Maddie Hinch making a string of remarkable saves.

After a whirlwind of media attention, victory parades, visits to Buckingham Palace and coaching appearances at grassroots clubs, Hinch and sharp shooter Sophie Bray are settling into a new life in the Dutch domestic league.

The hockey players are on season-long loans in the top division with two rival teams in Utrecht - Hinch with Stichtsche and Bray with Kampong. Sunday, 30, October was the first local derby of the season.

Last term they pulled on the shirts for English clubs Holcombe and East Grinstead, but playing in the Netherlands for a season presents an opportunity to develop their own game and begin a new four-year cycle that hopefully culminates in retaining their Olympic title in Tokyo 2020.

'My face was hurting from smiling so much'

"I still find it hard to put the whole experience into words. It's still very much a blur and I can't tell you what I was thinking or feeling at the time because it just didn't feel real," says Hinch, 28.

"When we won, my face was hurting from smiling so much. The first thing I did was look up to my family in the crowd. That section of GB supporters were going absolutely mental. I was thinking 'is this really happening? Have we just done what we've done'?"

GB Women's hockey team after winning gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics
GB women's hockey team beat the Netherlands to win gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics

Hinch gets much of the spotlight for her performance between the posts, not just in the final but throughout the team's unbeaten run in Rio. But both Hinch and Bray both put their success down to the dedication and hard work the entire squad had to put in to realise their dream - including the backroom staff and the players who trained for four years but never made the plane to Rio.

"I just remember playing in the final and you're just playing in the moment," says Bray.

"You're not really thinking about other things apart from playing a game of hockey. Before Hollie Webb put that winning penalty in, I remember talking to Maddie and saying 'just another one, one more save, one more save'. And she kept on saving them. Mads was keeping them out."

'It is a very realistic dream for anyone'

Both Hinch and Bray share a determination to translate their success into long-term growth for the sport.

"To think that we are inspiring people to pick up a hockey stick or to return to the game is a huge honour for all of us. We want to grow our sport and the enthusiasm back at hockey clubs in the UK is fantastic to see," says the 26-year-old forward.

GB Women's hockey team after winning gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics
GB Women's hockey team after winning gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics

Hinch said that the success of GB is "just the start of something really exciting for the sport".

"When we landed back at Heathrow and walked in to the terminal building there were kids running around with sticks and wearing their club kit. For me, I thought 'wow', said Hinch. "We've inspired more children to want to be us and be hockey players. That's what Sophie and I did 15 years ago and now we can say we are Olympic champions, so it is a very realistic dream for anyone."

Big game, big sponsors?

So why up sticks and move to Holland?

Hockey is a higher-profile sport in the Netherlands and the women's national team were the number one force in hockey - until this summer of course.

The goalkeeper believes the club system in the country is so strong because the game attracts big sponsors who back the clubs.

"We're not allowed to mention too much over here that we won the Olympics. We're the ones who ruined the party in Holland! The biggest thing is how much they love hockey. The standard is very good so it's been challenging moving here and having new team-mates who do things differently," added Hinch.

"I hope that's where it will change in the UK now with the interest in the sport and you hope sponsors would look to support the club system a little more. If it doesn't happen now I don't know when it will ever happen."

Bray's new team - Kampong - boast a ground with nine pitches and 40 men's and women's teams. But this summer was a bit of a wake-up call for the sport in Holland.

"The Dutch are quite interested to know how it works back home for us. Although we might not have the big club structure they have, we are clearly doing something right and they are secretly intrigued to know what," said Bray.

'Prince Harry resembled a crab'

GB's women's hockey team have also caught the attention of the Royal Family. Following the Manchester and London Team GB victory parades, the team were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, who it appears was as gripped by the penalty shootout as the rest of the nation.

"We were very honoured to do that and we got to have a proper chat with the Queen and discovered all the Royal Family watched the game," says Hinch.

Team GB women's hockey team with the Duchess of Cambridge
The GB women's hockey team were invited to a Royal reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate Team GB's Rio success

"It was even more strange to think they were actually watching us in that moment. They were talking us through the bits of the game they really enjoyed and Prince Harry was trying to demonstrate goalkeeping. He tried to show me what I was doing in the shootout. He's got a lot to learn about goalkeeping. He resembled more of a crab."

Team-mates become rivals

This summer their performances came to define unity and team work. They won plaudits for their togetherness - from a collective ban on social media during the Games through to belting out the national anthem as their plane touched down back in London.

But on Sunday, team-mates became sporting rivals.

Watching on from the clubhouse was GB head coach Danny Kerry - the mastermind behind Britain's golden hockey moment.

"It's really important for the likes of Sophie and Maddie, who have long international careers ahead of them, to have time to experience other cultures and other ways of playing in different nations. For the rest of the Olympic cycle after this season they all have to be UK based so it actually benefits our sport in the longer run," says Kerry.

GB Women's hockey coach Danny Kerry
GB Women's head coach Danny Kerry was among a crowd of around 400 people watching the derby game in Utrecht

"I think our future is about investing in some really big clubs, with really large youth sections to cater for all age ranges and all abilities. If we get that economy of scale we can continue to do something special."

Kerry was among a crowd of about 400 people watching the derby game. It produced a dominant display by Stichtsche, who nullified Bray's goal threat from open play. It meant Hinch had a quiet game and a clean sheet in the 4-0 victory.

Tokyo 2020

Both Bray and Hinch have already turned their thoughts to Tokyo 2020. Bray says they want to carry on winning and that this is a challenge they are ready for.

Hinch said: "Being an Olympic champion is pretty nice but I am getting quite greedy and I would like to be a double Olympic champion. But there are a lot of medals to be won along the way. We've got a European title to try and defend here in Holland next summer and a home World Cup in London in 2018.

"We haven't been in this position before. We are the team to beat at the minute so that will be the making of us as a group."