By Jamie Fakes
Sports Recruitment Group had their own sense of Olympic pride when the London Olympics came to a close with researcher and marketing assistant Crista Cullen claiming bronze as part of the British women’s hockey team.
It could well have been a gold medal play off for the highly confident home team but after a controversial goal to Argentina put an end to their hopes of victory in the semifinals, they were quick to regroup ahead of their bronze medal clash with New Zealand.
While the first half of the playoff resulted in no goals for either side, the second half proved to be all about the Brits as they fired their way to a 3-1 lead by the close of the match.
Reflecting on both the semi final and bronze medal playoff, Cullen said the team demonstrated great strength and determination to claim the first women’s hockey medal for Great Britain in the last 20 years.
“The semi was definitely the hardest match when the final goal was so controversial but winning that bronze just showed the resilience and character of the team,” she said.
“We had a review of the game, looked at the negatives and positives, then just had to draw a line under it; ultimately we still had a medal to play for."
The team had placed great pressure on themselves in an effort to reach their peak performance to impress at the once in a lifetime home Olympics and such efforts were recognised throughout.
While Cullen had also competed as part of the team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she said the support of a home crowd made every match one she would never forget.
“We had played the finals of the champions trophy, which is the top eight teams in the world, before but this was definitely our biggest match. To play in front of 16,000 screaming fans every match was just amazing,” she said.
“At the London Games, I think everyone just wanted to be a part of any sport they could and that made for incredible support for GB in every game.
“I think it was great for the exposure of the sport. So many more people have picked up a stick as a result and that’s what it’s all about; you want people of all ages playing this amazing sport.”
The atmosphere on field was matched by celebrations at the opening and closing ceremonies that left the whole world talking. For Cullen, these were moments that would never be forgotten.
“Walking out into the stadium, with thousands and thousands of supporters there cheering for you, it was hard to describe, I was just so proud,” she said.
“The closing ceremony was very different, you had all of the athletes from different countries intermingled. It was pretty amazing having George Michael walking right past you and to see the Spice Girls flying past on top of the cars was something you don’t forget.”
Returning to the office could seem like a drag to many after such an unmatchable experience but at Sports Recruitment Group's UK office, the celebrations and congratulations kept on going.
“It was really cool walking in, everyone has been so supportive over the three years and for that I am eternally grateful. We just all celebrated and everyone wanted a photo with the medal; that’s when you realize it means so much to everybody.
“I’ve been so lucky to work somewhere that’s been so flexible and understanding about my ambition, so that I could still manage all of the training that’s required. SRI has truly helped me fulfill my childhood dream and now I am now an Olympic medalist, thank you. ”
After 10 years at the elite level, Cullen is uncertain as to whether she will pursue a third Olympic campaign in 2016 with the first priority being a return home to family in Kenya to reflect on an unforgettable experience.
Image: Ady Kerry/GB Hockey