The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, we look at the 2016 women’s hockey final.
Women's hockey final, Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Olympic Hockey Centre, Rio, 19 August 2016
Great Britain vs the Netherlands
There was no doubting the fact that the Netherlands were the tournament favourites heading into the hockey gold medal match at Rio 2016. Not only were they current world champions and top of the global rankings, they had also won the past two Olympic tournaments reeling off 21 wins in a row before this showcase in Brazil. In Rio they were unbeaten, having scored 22 goals and conceded only four en route to the final.
Great Britain, on the other hand, had never won an Olympic women's hockey gold. Four years before, at their home Olympics in London, they had triumphed in the bronze medal match – a result that had inspired the nation, leading to a 25% increase in participation in women's hockey in the UK. Now, as they stepped into the Rio sunshine, they were in uncharted territory, attempting the impossible against one of sport's most dominant teams.
The key moment
For three quarters of the match the Dutch put on a dazzling display, dominating the Great Britain team and driving them back into their own half. It was in many ways a minor miracle that the British team entered the final quarter only one goal behind, having relied on a heroic performance by Maddie Hinch who repelled shot after shot to keep the score to 3-2.
And then the unthinkable happened.
With nine minutes remaining, Great Britain won their first penalty corner of the game. To put that into context, the Dutch team had won 10 in the same timeframe. While that first corner didn’t lead to a goal, it did result in a second corner less than a minute later. The ball bounced around the penalty box, until finally Nicola White found the opening needed to slot home.
Game 100% on.
The Great Britain goal was followed by a nerve-jangling final eight minutes in which the Netherlands pressured and the women in red resisted. When the whistle finally blew to signal the end of normal time, it was clear that the winner would be defined by the narrow margins of penalties.
Before the penalty shuffles began, Great Britain’s goalkeeper Maddie Hinch opened up a small black book, a secret notebook containing jottings on each of the opposition players. Her homework paid dividends, as she saved four Dutch penalties in a row before Hollie Webb scored Team GB’s decisive fifth penalty to secure a historic gold medal.
Seven of the 16 Great Britain players who competed in the Olympic final have now retired, and the defending champions struggled during their qualification campaign for Tokyo 2020, only making the cut after a two-leg playoff win over Chile.
One of the biggest stories of the victory was the fact that Great Britain’s captain Kate Richardson-Walsh and her wife became first same-sex married couple to win an Olympic gold for their country. As fate would have it, following the Olympics they both moved to the Netherlands to play for the club HC Bloemendaal, making a home for themselves in the country whose dreams they had broken only a few month earlier in Rio.
Could the Netherlands earn a third straight Olympic gold medal? Or would Great Britain finish the tournament undefeated?