Alexander is Beijing bound

Former Harleston Magpies hockey star Richard Alexander cannot wait to get on the pitch as he prepares to help Team GB cause a shock at the Beijing Olympics.

Former Harleston Magpies hockey star Richard Alexander cannot wait to get on the pitch as he prepares to help Team GB cause a shock at the Beijing Olympics.

The 26-year-old from Homersfield, in Suffolk, will take part in his first Olympics after being a regular at inside left for the Great Britain side since making his debut on their South Africa tour at the start of 2005.

Team GB departed for Macau today (Wednesday), athletes excluded, to set up at their holding camp in the Chinese territory to help their acclimatisation and Alexander admitted before leaving he cannot wait to perform at the world's greatest sporting spectacle, although it was still sinking in.

“It has a little bit, but I think when I get to the airport, when I arrive in Macau and then Beijing, it will more, and that first game - when you know you've got to do the business - that's what we are all waiting for.”

Their first match, against Pakistan, takes place on August 11 before the British squad face the Netherlands, South Africa, Canada and Australia in their pool.

The top side in each pool will play off for gold, which is repeated down to a match to decide fifth place and Alexander is hopeful Britain can perform above their world ranking and be in contention for a medal.

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“It's going to be quite difficult but at the end of the day it's the Olympics and you need to get results against the top teams if you want to win something,” said Alexander.

“We are a fairly confident team at the moment and it's just a case of getting results, hopefully against Holland and Australia, taking each game as it comes round and getting through to the quarter-finals, because once you're at that stage, anything can happen.

“We should finish third in our group on world rankings, so anything less than sixth overall would be disappointing, but we have been moving up the rankings and we've started to threaten the big sides. They are looking at us as serious contenders now, whereas before they wouldn't even see us as a threat.

“A medal would be amazing, but with the players we have got now and the way we can play, it is not unachievable. If we can play to our best, we know we can achieve that and it's nice to know, because before it has been a bit out of our grasp.

“It's about putting results together and if we have one bad day in the pool games, then we won't make the semi-finals and we won't have any chance of a medal. So we can't afford to step off at any point.”

With Team GB on an upward curve and looking to prove the point in Beijing, Alexander and his team-mates have been in full-time training for the past two months, without any substantial rest, to make the prospect of the Olympic schedule - a game every other day - seem manageable, physically and mentally.

“I'm probably in the best condition I have been in. the training is different to what we have done before and we haven't really had a chance to rest yet,” said Alexander. “Our coaches have made sure we've been playing under fatigue so we should find playing at the Olympics easier than how we've been training, believe it or not.

“So it has made playing recently quite tricky but as soon as we get there we'll be on conditioning for the tournament and it is all very exciting.

Britain travel to this summer's Olympics after winning the qualifying championships in Chile five months ago, beating India twice along the way.

“Everyone's been training full time since then; five days a week, three of them full-time in camp, getting up at seven and spending six hours on the pitch, then the weights and running. But that's that is the amount of work we need to do and what makes it all so special in a way,” said Alexander.

“At the moment, the thing I'm most nervous about is whether I've got all my kit. I'm not worried about the hockey yet because there are so many outside factors before we play - the conditions, fitness - we've got plenty of training to go before the first match.

“I hope I'm not going to be overwhelmed by it all, but to be honest we're encouraged to just go and do our jobs on the pitch. Obviously I'm going to be nervous but that just means the situation means something to you and, for me, nerves are usually a good thing.”