NOT a day goes by without Alan Forsyth thinking about the crushing disappointment he felt when he missed out on final selection for GB’s hockey squad for the Rio Olympics five years ago.
So close was he to making the cut in 2016, he was one of just two players not selected who were asked to remain with the squad to aid the team’s preparations until they departed for Brazil, with those couple of months only serving to make the disappointment even more acute.
And so while Forsyth has never been short of motivation, one thing is for certain; he is going to do everything in his power to ensure he does not experience those same feelings again this summer.
“I think about how it felt to miss out on Rio every single day,” the 28-year-old says. “I was doing all of the hard work but knew I wasn’t going to the Olympics so it was really tough.
“As much as you want to get over it and move on from something like that, I never, ever want to experience that again so I have that thought in my head pretty much every time I play hockey.
“It was, without doubt, one of, if not the single worst experience of my entire hockey career.”
Back in 2016, Forsyth was still something of a rookie in the GB squad having made his debut only a year earlier. However, in the years since, he has become a regular fixture on the GB line-up and this time last year, before the pandemic arrived causing the Olympics to be postponed, Forsyth looked to be in an excellent position to grab a seat on the plane to Tokyo.
The Scot knows though that however strong a position he was in last year, it means very little now and so he and his teammates are once again beginning their final push to gain selection. In the coming months, the current squad of 26 will be cut to only 16 and with so many players facing the prospect of being left behind come the summer, Forsyth knows that there is no time to relax, however daunting a prospect that may be.
“I think I was in a good position to be in the final squad last year but you really just never know who’ll make it,” he says. “When you sit back and think about the selection process, you realise it’s absolutely brutal but as players, it’s all we’ve ever known so it’s the norm.
“Last year, I didn’t have any real injuries and I was feeling good but now there’s another six months to go. With hockey, how things looked last year doesn’t mean you’ll get a spot this year so everyone’s playing for those 16 spots over the next few months. “A four-year block has turned into a five-year block and that takes its toll and so you have to prepare yourself mentally for that extra year. The last year leading up to the Olympics is the toughest and we’ve already done the bulk of that so we have to get ready to do it again.”
The Paisley-born forward is based in England and plays his club hockey for Surbiton and in a normal year, would be looking forward to a busy six months of Premier Division fixtures as well as international training camps and games with GB.
However, with things just as uncertain as they were in 2020, if not even more so, Forsyth admits plans for the lead-up to Tokyo remain entirely unclear.
A scheduled warm-weather training camp this month has already been axed while it is likely to be weeks if not months before GB are in competitive action once more.
2020 may not have been the year he had hoped for but Forsyth admits that for the GB team as a whole, an extra year of preparation may well help their prospects as they aim to improve on their results in Rio in 2016 which saw them eliminated in the group stages. For Forsyth, there is the prospect of becoming the first Scottish man to make the GB team since 2008 and while he is well aware of the potential to write his name into the history books, he is doing his best to push it to the back of his mind for the next six months. “I try not to think about becoming the first Scottish man for so long because that just adds even more pressure. But I know that if I do go to Tokyo, it would be great for Scotland,” he says.
“I was glad to see the back of 2020 because it was just a terrible year but actually, comparing things to this time last year, there’s a lot that’s very similar. We’ve had that experience of being six months out from the Games but the difference this time is we’re going into a world of unknowns. “At the moment, things are changing every week and we all constantly have friends and family asking if the Olympics will even go ahead so that probably doesn’t help.
“We’re all training like the Games will definitely go ahead and so I just want to do everything I can to get selected.”