Rebecca living Olympic dream after GB call-up

Rebecca van Berkel is going to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival
Rebecca van Berkel is going to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival
Matt Cox opened the scoring for Havant in their defeat at Cheltenham.  Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant fall to defeat at Cheltenham

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WIDLEY hockey star Rebecca van Berkel received her Great Britain call-up for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and declared: Roll on 2013.

The former Havant defender has enjoyed a year to remember after she was selected for England’s under-21s for the EuroHockey Junior Championships.

That made up for the disappointment of missing out on a bronze medal at the 2011 Four Nations with England’s under-18s.

And van Berkel’s rapid progress was rewarded when she played every game for the under-21s as they claimed a brilliant bronze in the Netherlands.

The talented teenager, who now plays for University of Birmingham in the Investec Women’s Hockey League premier division, admits she is surprised by her rapid rise through the England hockey ranks.

But that progress is showing no sign of slowing down, with the 2012 News Sports Award nominee set to make her Team GB bow in January, following selection for the Youth Olympic Festival.

The former South Downs College student, who also competed in this year’s Sainsbury’s Schools’ Games finals for England Pumas, is now set to strut her stuff on the same hockey pitches used in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

And van Berkel insists she has to pinch herself as she eagerly awaits her adventure Down Under.

‘I was over the moon when I found out I had been called up for GB – I didn’t think I would make the squad,’ said van Berkel, who benefits from being a member of the Lloyds TSB Local Heroes programme.

‘There are so many girls who were looking to make the squad and I just thought that, being slightly younger, the chance would pass me by.

‘But this just adds to what has been a very good 2012 for me.

‘I did the under-18s last year and got called up to the under-21s this summer.

‘That took me by surprise a bit but then I played in every game as we won a bronze at the Europeans.

‘So I have risen quite rapidly through the ranks. Now I have been called up by Great Britain and I can’t wait to get going.’

The Australian Youth Olympic Festival will see around 1,700 athletes, aged 12 to 20 from 30 different nations, compete across 17 sports – with Great Britain taking part in 11.

And van Berkel is adamant she isn’t heading Down Under just to make up the numbers.

‘I think we have what it takes to battle for the gold medal,’ she said.

‘It is a new team that has been put together and playing as Great Britain, as opposed to just England, will pose a different challenge but I think we are all fairly confident.

‘We have never faced a side like Australia before and they will probably be our main rivals.

‘But we will give it all we have and hopefully we can get a result.’

n Lloyds TSB Local Heroes, in partnership with SportsAid, provides support and funding to 346 of Britain’s most talented developing athletes on their journey to London 2012 and beyond. Since 2008, the programme has supported 1,000 athletes. Follow future stars at