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Women's Hockey World Cup: Tess Howard hunting medals in huge summer

By Ross BoneBBC Sport
Tess Howard drives forwards with the ball
Tess Howard has 46 international caps

Tess Howard's reaction to being called up to the England squad for the Women's Hockey World Cup, Commonwealth Games and European Championship qualifiers this summer isn't what you might think.

Howard missed last year's Tokyo Olympics with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and, after a long battle back to fitness, has forced her way back in for a huge summer of hockey.

"If I'm being honest, when I saw the squad, I was quite numb," she said. "I had been so used to disappointment I kind of couldn't believe it."

Having made an impressive start to her senior international career, Howard got injured in a training session 100 days before the Olympics and her dreams of going to Tokyo were over.

"My knee just went," she said. "I collapsed on the floor. I don't make a fuss when I go down and this was the first time people heard me properly scream.

"I had a precautionary MRI scan and they told me: 'You've ruptured your ACL.'

"I just thought: 'That means the Olympics is out of the question, right?' I was told it's a 12-month injury, so Tokyo was gone.

"When it sunk in, I found it really hard. There are a lot of layers of grief. You have the injury itself, the isolation where you are unable to be part of the team. But it was so much harder - because of Covid, I had to go through surgery by myself.

"You keep wondering why it's happened to you, but I also kept thinking I'd give everything to get back after my rehab."

Howard could be forgiven for not wanting the squad to do well in her absence, and possibly even ignoring the Olympics. However, she was up every night with her father cheering the team on and stresses how proud she is of her team-mates for winning the bronze medal.

She made her comeback from "the biggest challenge she's ever faced" in May in the FIH Pro League against Germany; after 386 days out she scored in a 4-3 win for David Ralph's side.

"To be back with my team-mates and able to compete again felt incredible," she said. "My mum's reaction was amazing. She's been really getting into Twitter and Instagram, and she kept saying things like 'Hashtag my gal's back.' It's hilarious."

England start their World Cup campaign with a pool match against India on Sunday, 3 July in Amstelveen, followed by games against New Zealand two days later and China on Thursday, 7 July.

If things go to plan in the tournament staged by co-hosts the Netherlands and Spain, England will be playing for a World Cup medal on 17 July, then opening their Commonwealth Games campaign just 13 days later.

Eighteen days after the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games ends, they travel to Durham for the European Championships qualifying tournament.

England have never won the Women's Hockey World Cup and have been runners-up three times in the Commonwealths, but Howard is confident they can make an impact this time around.

"The squad is exciting," she said. "We've shown what we're capable of. We have such an attacking threat and the coaching philosophy that we have is around passing and team play, creating as many attacking opportunities as possible.

"I know when it matters that this team will produce, so I'm really excited. I think we are the wildcard. We have a tough [World Cup] group, but it also means that we have to be on it from the first match.

"That puts us in a great position for the rest of the tournament. We have to see where we are with each game, but if you think about winning each game there is no reason why you can't achieve what you want.

"We should be confident. If we apply ourselves, we can win medals."

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