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Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan pushes for parity in women's sport and gold at Rio

Canberra Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan has her sights on Olympic Games gold, but her ultimate goal is to break down barriers for female athletes and help women's sport achieve parity.

Flanagan is stepping up her training for the Rio Olympics as she leads the Hockeyroos into battle almost seven years after she was plucked out of her classroom at Radford College to make her international debut.

In that time, she has chalked up Olympic experience in 2012, won Commonwealth Games gold medals and and a World Cup silver, and has a chance to reach a career high in Rio this year.

The 24-year-old used International Women's Day on Tuesday to pledge her support for parity on and off the field.

Hockey is one of the only sports that pays its female and male athletes equally. Flanagan hopes other sports will follow that path to give women a chance to shine.

"Across the board everything we do [in hockey] is fair, and that's pretty exciting when you look at other team sports and the gap between male and females is huge," she said.


"We've still got a long, long way to go. Female and male sports are very different and obviously males are physically superior. It's about demand and what people want to watch.

"But look at how well females are doing and the role models they are in society, that's a huge step forward. I think we're heading in the right direction."

The Australian men's and women's hockey teams are rated as strong gold medal chances at Rio. 

Flanagan has played more than 150 games for Australia and is using the disappointment of missing out on an Olympic medal four years ago to intensify her efforts this time.

She is one of Australia's most experienced campaigners and is a former world junior player of the year.

But she said improved depth meant she was now facing a tough challenge to book her ticket to Brazil.

The Hockeyroos are ranked No.3 in the world behind the Netherlands and Argentina.

"It's going to be hard just to get into the team because we've got depth now compared to four years ago," Flanagan said.

"We've come so far since London. Now we've got a gold medal chance but in London we were ranked seventh in the world so we probably didn't have that.

"We've closed the gap and we have to set our sights high. I've got that experience of an Olympics, Commonwealth Games ... you can't buy that experience. That's the same for the rest of the squad."

Former University of Canberra star Edwina Bone and Crookwell duo Emily Smith and Kellie White are also fighting for Olympic selection.

The Hockeyroos will play against Japan, Korea and Canada at the Hawke's Bay Cup in New Zealand next month as they start fine-tuning their preparations.

They will also play against China and then travel to London for a pre-Olympic tournament.

"I think we've got the best training environment in the world ... for anyone's improvement, being in the program in Perth is the best thing for your skills," Flanagan said.

She was part of a team of Red Bull-sponsored female athletes who participated in a global International Women's Day story on social media on Tuesday.