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when the winter blues meet Olympic gold

Laura Unsworth is a professional hockey player based in London. At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, Laura won a gold medal with the Team GB women's hockey team. We chatted with her about how she copes with the winter blues and the craziest thing she packs when travelling. 

q&a with gold medalist laura unsworth

Where are you right now, and where would you rather be?

I’m back in London as hockey training has re-commenced for the Tokyo cycle. I actually love being home because all my friends and family and home comforts are so close, but if I'm honest I’d rather be anywhere in the world where it’s mid-summer because it’s absolutely freezing on the training pitch. I wouldn't complain if someone sent me to some Mexican resort to train in the sun and then enjoy margaritas after.

What is the best way to recover from the winter blues?

I always book a cheeky little holiday away, even if it’s just a weekend away. It gives me something to look forward to and adds a real spring to my step, and I'm lucky to live in London where you can literally jump on a plane and go to a crazy amount of beautiful places in a few hours. 

What is your favourite holiday destination and why?

I love the West Country in England because I have been going there since I was young and have so many special childhood memories. The coastline is stunning, it’s full of warm, cosy pubs and it’s always a great escape from the hustle and bustle of London life. I also love it because the whole area is a great way to experience a delightful slice of the UK.

What is the city and/or country you most want to visit and why?

I would love to go and see the Northern Lights (left). I think it would be a truly spectacular display to witness. Ideally, I’d like to travel to Iceland to see all of the natural beauty there, but it would also be amazing to start the adventure in the Norwegian fjords and finish off with the Northern Lights. 

You’re feeling like you need some rejuvenation. What's your remedy – country break, lakeside adventure, beachside bliss or getting lost in a new city? 

For me, it’s all about the beach – even if it’s just for the weekend. Training is so intense, both physically and mentally, that I prefer to chill out on a sun lounger with a good book to recharge my batteries.

You are an Olympic gold medallist. Where do you keep your medal?

At the moment, my medal lives in my handbag! Since we’ve been home, the whole team has been busy visiting schools and hockey clubs across the country to show off our medals and let everyone wear it and take photos with it. 

What is one thing about competing at the Olympics that will surprise most people?

There was a McDonald’s in the Olympic Athlete Village that was completely free. You didn't have to pay for anything, and you could order whatever you liked from the menu!

What did you pack for the Rio Olympics?

Luckily for us we were provided with all of our kit and toiletries by Team GB, so packing was made very easy. The most random thing I packed was my pillow from home, because it’s always nice to have some home comforts with you when you’re thousands of miles from home.

What is your craziest experience abroad?

We are very lucky to travel all over the world playing in tournaments. One of my favourite places to go to is Argentina, as hockey is just as popular as football. The World Cup was held in Argentina a few years ago, and the atmosphere was incredible. There were around 16,000 people in the stadium and the crowd were going crazy. They were singing, dancing and cheering the whole time – it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The people are just so warm and vivacious, and Buenos Aires (pictured right is the historic Buenos Aires suburb of La Boca) is a spectacular city. 

What does it mean to be “independently minded”?

To me, it’s all about just being yourself. In the Rio GB training squad, there were 31 girls. It was always important to voice your opinion and thoughts, no matter how they differed from the group. I think that great things can come from being truly independently minded in all aspects of life, as thinking inside of the box never changed history. 

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