by: Anna Flanagan
It has been almost a month now since I arrived home from Rio.
Heartbroken, emotionally volatile and disappointed in what was the toughest tournament of my career.
I say all this as I watched my fellow teammates become Olympians as I sat in the stands under the accreditation ‘Alternate Athlet’.
Being able to experience an Olympic games no matter what is a privilege, and for that I am grateful to have gone through it supporting the team and staff.
But because I had been to an Olympics, had experienced what it felt like being at World Cup finals, it was a lot harder to turn my own disappointment into gratefulness.In saying this, when the girls lost the quarterfinal to NZ, I had the exact same sinking feeling any player does when they do not achieve their goal. I felt more than anything for the whole team, and the tears were flowing before they had finished the final quarter.
Not because I was mad or wanted to be out there, because I felt a part of the team, and really believed in the talent that was out there.
As a reserve player we watched the girls perform from afar. We stayed 400m outside the village in an airBnB. We were really lucky to get bikes because otherwise we would have been walking anywhere from 10-20km extra per day. We technically had 2 reserves (17th and 18th man) and a goalie (19th).
Although we stuck together having the 19th man was a really difficult task because they do not get the same privileges. Ash Wells was our keeper and 19th and did an amazing job in a really hard situation. She could not come into the village before 9am and had to be out by 9pm. She could not just check in through any entrance but had to get a visitors pass every single day and hand in her passport, this was an extra 2km around the other side of the village. We all ended up doing the same thing,
Georgia Nanscawen and I going with Ash, but knowing you technically aren’t counted as an athlete is pretty damn rough. Claire Rechichi is the team physiologist and she stayed with us too. We liked to call her our room mum. I think she was the glue that held us together, and made it as easiest possible. We had some good laughs together and these will be the moments we cherish from these Games. The four of us together with the men reserves formed a bike gang.
The girls called ourselves ‘Little Wins’ because even the smallest thing that went well in the day made a difference. Whether we were able to access the food hall, our driver got us home early, just the small things…
As well as this all three of us (reserve plus fake reserve) had to continue training almost everyday to be ready for a call up. It was mentally difficult to be in the mind frame that you could potentially play, whilst watching and feeling the knot in your stomach that you may also not fulfill that dream. George and I had some tough running sessions, as well as Gym sets to keep us ticking over. A breaking point for me was walking onto the Olympic pitch to train for the first time, and knowing I would be sitting in the stands. We wanted to be positive and be the best for the group, to help them get ready, and offer any support or chats if they needed. But when you are around these girls for 6 days a week the rest of the year they can see the cracks and know that a lot of the time it was a front to protect us also.
All of us had moments when it just hits you that after four years since London we had actually not achieved what we wanted in going to a second Olympics. But we also knew the feeling all the debutants felt, and I know I was genuinely happy they could experience the ultimate sporting event and remember it for the rest of their lives. I will remember it for a different reason, as a challenge that I did not want to face, but in which I know can only make myself and the other 2 girls that much stronger. I have always wanted to be the best, but the application of doing so has waivered. I want to play for Australia again, not in the stands, and I want to see this team win medals because the talent is undeniable.
So although my social media showed it to be a peachy experience, it was tough.
I am so grateful to have been able to get through this with the support of my reserve team, the girls and staff. And I honestly can’t wait to be reunited with everyone once more.