CHINA women’s hockey team prepared for the London Olympics in Wakefield last week and left for the capital with glowing feedback for hosts Wakefield Hockey Club.
The team, ranked fifth in the world, chose Wakefield’s College Grove base, complete with international and Olympic standard pitch, as their training base for the Games.
They arrived in Wakefield for their first training session last Wednesday and played two matches against Scotland, both open to the public, over the weekend before travelling to London on Monday.
And Olympic bronze medallist and former Great Britain captain Norman Hughes, now a coach at Wakefield, says the team could return to the city in the future.
“The feedback that we received from them was great,” he said.
“They loved their time here. They liked how cheerful all the staff were, they liked the facilities and they said they’d love to return here in the future.
“That depends on whether England Hockey will bring international matches to College Grove but we hope that they will.
“The Scottish girls also enjoyed their time here so it was a great week for the club.”
Speaking through a translator at a press conference last Friday Jun Lei, team leader of the China women’s hockey team, said: “We would like to thank Wakefield Hockey Club for their hospitality.
“It is great to be here and the support we have had is true to the Olympic spirit. It shows that hockey is popular all over the world.”
Hundreds of hockey fans descended on College Grove for China’s double-header against Scotland.
The first match was played on Friday night and saw China run out 3-0 winners after Scotland held them to a first-half stalemate.
The Chinese domination continued on Sunday with a resounding 5-0 victory.
Over 500 supporters attended to see Scotland battle hard but ultimately fall short of their Olympic opponents.
Zhao Yudiao opened the scoring for the Chinese with a deflected effort but the Scots fought back and were unfortunate to trail 1-0 at the break.
After half-time China upped their gear and open play goals from Ghao Lihua, Yudiao, Tang Chunling and Li Hongxia led to an emphatic victory.
Hughes kept a keen eye on both matches and says they were a great success.
“The game was the first international hockey match to be held in Wakefield and it was a great thrill for everybody,” he said.
“We only had three weeks to prepare and publicise the event and the army of volunteers from Wakefield Hockey Club did a fabulous job.
“We had young players leading the flags out, being mascots and on ball patrol and they all did a great job, it was a great inspiration for them all.”
Wakefield’s senior women players also got a slice of the action when they took on their Scottish visitors on Saturday.
The hosts gave as good as they got in the first half, holding their visitors to a goalless draw thanks to a penalty save.
But the Scots made their international pedigree count in the second half, storming to a 4-0 win.
Hughes will travel to be part of the Olympics opening ceremony tonight, Friday.
He was invited thanks to his bronze-medal winning performance with Great Britain in Los Angeles in 1984 and is thrilled to be involved in the London Games.
“All the previous British medal winners have been invited to the opening ceremony but we’re all a bit in the dark,” he said.
“We’ve just been told to turn up at the stadium at a certain time but it’ll be a great occasion, I’m really looking forward to it.”
He continued: “I’m going there until Tuesday and I’ll be taking in some hockey matches.”
See this week’s Wakefield Express for all the latest sports news from around the district.