Margot van Geffen’s memories of London are mixed. In 2012 she was a member of the gold medal winning Dutch team that wowed the spectators at the packed stands in the Riverbank Arena.
The final match of the 2012 Olympics saw the Netherlands beat Argentina 2-0, with Maartje Paumen scoring a trademark penalty corner to seal the win.
Just three years later the Netherlands were back on the Olympic Park, again looking their imperious selves in the pool games of the 2015 Unibet EuroHockey Championships. However, in the final they found themselves up against an England team determined to please the home supporters.
“I love playing in London...the big crowds are great. It is always cool to play the host nation."
Margot van Geffen, Netherlands
The match was tied at 2-2, with Caia van Maasakker giving Netherlands an early 2-0 lead. With eight minutes left Sophie Bray and Lily Owsley brought the game back to level and then Maddie Hinch provided the heroics by saving three of four Dutch shoot-out attempts.
“I love playing in London,” said Van Geffen. “I remember both those occasions with mixed feelings. I think the memory that stands out clearest in my mind though has to be the 2012 Olympics. Walking around the Olympic Park, spending time in the Athletes Village, it was just so cool. That is the thing I remember most.”
The Netherlands have been on a devastating winning streak in the past two years. They took silver in the 2016 Olympics, losing out to Great Britain in the final, again on shoot-out and again with Hinch between the posts.
Since then, Alyson Annan, the Head Coach and FIH Women’s Coach of the Year, has put her own stamp of authority on the team.
“It was tough for Alyson, in the lead-up to Rio,” says Van Geffen. “We only had nine months to get to know each other. Following Rio, we had a debrief and since then Alyson has been far less stressed - she is much calmer now.”
Much of Annan’s calmness could be related to the fact that her team has rediscovered winning ways. Since the Australian superstar took charge, her team has played 63 games, winning 51 and drawing eight.
“I guess it all started with our our preparations for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Brussels,” says Van Geffen. “That was our first official tournament after Rio. It went well and we just kept winning. We had one big exciting game in that tournament against New Zealand. That was crazy. It went to shoot out and I think that showed we had recovered from the final in Rio. Facing another shoot-out, that was mentally tough.” She pauses before adding: “I hate the shoot-out actually.”
Since then Netherlands have gone on to secure the 2017 Rabobank EuroHockey Championships, without losing a game and they repeated that feat at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final 2017 in Auckland, beating hosts New Zealand 3-0 in the final.
In 2014 at the World Cup in the Hague, the stadium was painted orange as 15,000 fans cheered the Netherlands to a second successive World Cup victory.
Van Geffen knows that the crowds in London will have more of a red, white and blue hue but that doesn’t bother the defender turned midfielder.
“The big crowds are great. It is always cool to play the host nation - that is awesome. I am hoping they will cheer a little for us. Also it is close by so our parents, friends and family will help turn some of London orange.”
Margot and her Netherlands team face China, Italy and Korea in the Pool stages, with their opening match scheduled for Sunday 22 July where they will face Korea at 17:00. To see the full schedule and buy tickets, .