The BIG MyMarlow Interview: Alex Danson, Olympic Gold medalist

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2016-09-09-18-01-28We were lucky enough to recently meet up with Marlow resident Alex Danson, Rio 2016 Gold Medalist as a key member, and leading goal scorer of Team GB’s Womens Hockey team.

Team GB trains at Bisham Abbey during the week, so it is natural for many of the players to have a base locally. Alex has lived in Marlow since 2013, and told us that although it was hockey that brought her to the town, “I love living here. It’s a very friendly place, with lots going on. It has a great sense of community, for example the Love Marlow festival earlier in the year – I went to quite a lot of events linked to that.”

At the weekend, Alex plays for Clifton Robinsons team in Bristol, but she is a patron of Marlow Hockey Club, and enjoys supporting the club in any way she can, adding “it’s a brilliant club,  with loads of players and run by some amazing volunteers.”

Regarding Alex’s favourite spot in town, the answer came very quickly: “I spend a lot of time in Coopers – the coffee is amazing, and a really relaxed setting. I’ve been there on Friday evening a couple of time too, for the live music, and really enjoyed it.”

On winning Gold in Rio

Moving on to the hockey, we asked Alex how confident she was going into Rio and bettering the Bronze of London 2012.

“There was great relief at winning Bronze in London, and getting a medal at a home Olympics was incredible. But I knew there was more in the squad, I knew we could do better. And, well – I’m really chuffed now!”

“The evening of the final, a party was arranged on the top floor of a hotel. It wasn’t a wild affair, just a chance to relax with friends and family and take it all in.  The next day we went to ‘British House’, which was great fun. The whole team was clapped as we walked in, there were loads of other athletes there since most of them had finished competing by then. We watched Mo Farah’s last race on the big screen, which was awesome and then there was a dancefloor. As an athlete you don’t often get the chance to let your hair down, so we made the most of it!”

 Coping with all the attention

alex-danson-on-itv“In Rio, we deleted social media apps from our phones and iPads, and didn’t read any news – we wanted to just stay focused on the competition.  It was only after we won the final that we found out about all the media coverage back home. Knowing that 9 million people watched the final, and that the BBC moved the news for it – it’s just incredible”

alex-danson-and-maddie-hinch-with-tim-lovejoyOn coming back home, Alex and the team were in much demand by the media. For example – here’s a clip of Alex being interviewed by Gaby Roslin on ITV.  Alex said “I also went on Sunday Brunch with Maddie which was lots of fun. Tim Loveljoy was lovely, and Joey Essex was on the same show, and was really funny.  At one point I think we had team members on BBC, ITV and Radio 5 all at the same time, which is amazing.”

Getting into hockey

“I only joined a club at the age of 12, but I had been playing around in the garden since about 6 or 7, and then played at school from age 8.”

“In the earlier part of my playing career, I worked as a hockey coach in a school until being able to turn professional in 2009. In that respect, Lottery funding has been an absolute game changer in terms of the team’s achievements. In Beijing we were 6th, then with the lottery funding we were 3rd in London, now 1st in Rio, all thanks to us being able to train full time, together as a team.”

Using the power of sport to help others

Lottery funded athletes are supposed to ‘give back to the community’ by spending up to 5 days a year in schools and communities, inspiring young people through sport.  Alex would be way too modest to have told us – but our research found that she has completed the greatest number of volunteering days of any lottery funded athlete over the last 4 years – 209 appearances instead of the suggested 20!!

Alex is also an ambassador for two very worthwhile initiatives.  The first is “Sky Sports Living for Sport“, where as an athlete mentor she visits schools with the aim of helping inspire young people in all walks of life, using sporting values.  Alex also works with “Right to Play” which helps disadvantaged children around the world. “I went to Uganda in 2014 and visited 5 sites. We were training people to become coaches, so they in turn could coach others. It’s all about using the power of sport to bring people together, and in some way improve their lives –  a ball makes everyone smile”

 Interests beyond hockey

“I have been meaning to join Marlow Riders for about 3 years! I love getting out on my bike, but as a full time athlete, we get limited spare time. My family don’t live too far away, so whenever I get the chance, I love spending time with them – or just spending time with friends.” Look out for Alex in this years Santa Fun Run too!

The future?

2016-09-09-18-00-44Alex definitely has her sights set on the next Hockey World Cup in 2018 – which will be based here in the UK. Regarding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Alex will “take it one year at a time.”  She is keen to stay involved in the sports world when her playing career comes to an end, perhaps linking up with education. She is a member of the English Commonwealth Games Board, just one example of how she has already moved into a wider sporting arena.  But we hope there’s plenty more years left of her scoring goals for England and Team GB!


Alex on Twitter @alexdanson15

Alex’s profile on Team GB Hockey

Article author: Paul Merchant

About the author: Founded in its original version back in 2000 - yes the internet DID exist back then. Brought up in Marlow, went to school here, now has children at the same schools. Quite clearly loves all things Marlow - hence spending over 2 decades doing this!

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