CHELTENHAM hockey ace Ashleigh Ball did not know whether to laugh or cry on Friday afternoon after she and the Team GB women’s hockey team beat New Zealand to grab Olympic bronze.

For four years the British team, led by Danny Kerry, have dreamt of only gold, but after Wednesday’s heartbreaking 2-1 defeat in the semi finals to Argentina the Brits were forced to readjust their targets.

And they did that spectacularly, dominating from start to finish against the Kiwis with goals from Crista Cullen, Sarah Thomas and Alex Danson to seal a 3-1 victory.

While Ball admitted that missing out on the top step of the podium was still a painful regret, she took more than a little consolation from their bronze, a first Olympic medal for Britain’s female hockey team since Barcelona 1992.

“This is a million miles away from the disappointment of the semi finals,” said Ball.

“We all woke up the next day and made sure we were going to move on. We did not have very long to come to terms with the fact that we are not going to achieve our dream of Olympic gold.

“Gold is what we came here to do but we have now won bronze which is fantastic, to leave without a medal at all would have been really tough.

And head coach Kerry admitted he was a relieved man after the victory, his sport having benefited from £15 million in lottery funding.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and the girls were so professional, said Kerry. “It’s seven and a half years of hard work coming to fruition out there.

“People talk about technique and tactics but winning medals comes down to character.”

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