The 32-year-old, who grew up in the Hill Head and Stubbington area, captured British hearts at Rio 2016 as her penalty shoot-out heroics propelled the nation to glory, writes WILL JENNINGS.
Hinch saved all four Dutch penalties after a 3-3 draw and will descend on the Games once more as Team GB kick-off their title defence against Germany on Sunday.
This summer’s squad is almost unrecognisable from those Rio heroes as just six players remain from the one that won gold in Brazil.
Hinch issued a rallying cry to Danny Kerry’s youthful team and wants them to do things their own way to cap a ‘nuts’ consecutive triumph.
Hinch, one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: ‘I look back on 2016 and it really gives me a smile on my face.
‘It was positive and we wrote a real history with that group – but it’s a different group now. It’s important that we try and write our own history with this group and write our own story again.
‘We can’t go and try and replicate what that team in Rio did – we need to go out with our own team and really give an account of ourselves.
‘I’m just looking forward to seeing what this younger group can do – we’re going out with a bit of a target on our backs, but we’re proud to do so and we’re going to defend our title.’
Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh skippered Team GB to Rio 2016 nirvana but will be absent this time as defender Hollie Pearne-Webb, 30, takes the leadership reins.
Experienced Laura Unsworth is poised for her third Games while Shona McCallin, Lily Owsley and Giselle Ansley are among those heroes who captured gold medal glory to feature once again.
Precocious duo Izzy Petter, 20, and Fiona Crackles, 21, are the youngest members of the squad but Hinch insists Team GB’s rock-solid character means they're equipped with the tools for dealing with the challenges the Games will bring.
‘We’re a very close-knit bunch,’ added Hinch, who is able to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme.
‘This year has brought us together and our culture is very strong. Our support for one another is some of the strongest I’ve ever known - we really want the best for each other and we have each other to lean on.
‘That’s a really nice place to be in – and we’ve got to turn that into a strength of ours so when we do have a tough moment, we come together and get bounce back quickly.’
Hinch’s unforgettable Rio gold was one of a scintillating 864 medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997.
She knows adding to that haul in Tokyo would solidify her legacy among the greats but is remaining firmly grounded ahead of their five Group A clashes – starting with the Germans on Sunday.
Asked what Team GB defending their title would mean, Hinch said: ‘It would be nuts.
‘I know what’s coming if that’s the case this time – I'd definitely be more prepared for it. I think about it, and then I try and forget about it as quickly as possible.
‘There is so much to do between then and now – that first game is just massive in terms of belief and momentum. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.’
Ahead of travelling to Tokyo, Hinch’s training regime included time in a heat chamber, which pumps temperatures up to nearly 30 degrees.
Her goalkeeping kit, weighing 22 pounds, only added to a strenuous training routine.
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen