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Hockeyroos berth has Flanagan shooting for gold

She used to share the track with sprint queen Melissa Breen but it’s Anna Flanagan’s passion for hockey which has booked her a ticket to her first Olympic Games.

Canberra’s Flanagan was named in the Hockeyroos’ 16-woman squad yesterday and is preparing to make her Olympic debut in London.

She will be joined by Crookwell junior Emily Smith who has also made the final cut.

Less than five years ago Flanagan was training as a budding athletics star with Breen, who will also be at the Games next month competing in the  blue-ribbon 100m event.

But to chase her dream of representing Australia, Flanagan had to choose between hockey, athletics and tennis.

Hockey won the three-way battle and the decision has paid off with the 20-year-old set to play a key role in trying to lift the Hockeyroos back to Olympic glory.


‘‘It’s pretty crazy that we’re both going to be there in different sports,’’ Flanagan said.

‘‘I used to train with Mel in the same squad at athletics from when we were about 10 years old until we were about 15.

‘‘I played a lot of sports, I wanted to be Cathy Freeman and play tennis, but I chose hockey, since the 2000 Olympics that’s what I’ve wanted to do. I was in the multi-event so I did everything from hurdles to discus, but I never had to race against Mel because she was in the age group above.’’

Flanagan has been back in the capital for the past four days, but will return to Perth today to start ramping up her training for London.

She found out about her selection on Sunday.

However, she was sworn to secrecy until yesterday afternoon.

It’s been a whirlwind three years for the defender, who has now played more than 50 matches for her country.

She was sitting in her year 12 geography class at Radford College in 2009 when she found out she had been selected in the Australia team.

Since then she has moved to Perth and, after being left out of the initial squad,  received a late call-up to play at the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010.

Now she is one of the most consistent performers in the squad.

‘‘It’s all still surreal and it hasn’t really hit me just yet,’’ Flanagan said.

‘‘I’m so excited to be a part of it ... I was really nervous waiting for it to come out so I’m glad that wait is over.

‘‘It’s been a huge three years, moving out of home, and it has all happened so quickly.

‘‘It’s gone from a dream to a reality, I never thought I would be in this situation so quickly.’’

For her first two years training with the national team, Flanagan was the youngest player.

However,  Crookwell 19-year-old Smith will take over that title when the team arrives in London.The average age of the Hockeyroos is just 25.

And after failing to win a medal since taking gold in Sydney in 2000, the team is determined to return to the pinnacle of the Olympics.

‘‘The Olympics has always been the goal and when the new coaching staff came in that is what they had in mind for us to build towards,’’ Flanagan said.
‘‘It still felt surreal because we’ve got such a good squad coming through.’’

Hockeyroos squad for London Olympics: Teneal Attard (QLD), Madonna Blyth (QLD), Fiona Boyce (WA), Jade Close (NSW), Toni Cronk (NSW), Casey Eastham (NSW), Anna Flanagan (ACT), Kate Jenner (NSW), Kobie McGurk (WA), Hope Munro (WA), Georgia Nanscawen (VIC), Ashleigh Nelson (WA), Megan Rivers (NSW), Jodie Schulz (QLD), Emily Smith (NSW), Jayde Taylor (WA).