Olympic pair Bartlett and Maguire inspire district girls

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HOCKEY: East won the under-18 title and West claimed the under-16 crown at the Girls’ Inter-District Championships.

And every single player at the Scottish National Academy at Peffermill came away inspired by meeting two Team GB Olympic medallists, Laura Bartlett and Emily Maguire.

The pair were members of Great Britain women’s hockey side that claimed bronze at London 2012 in August following a 3-1 win over New Zealand in the third-fourth place play-off match. The summer success was only Britain’s women’s second podium place in history, and their first in 20 years.

This week Laura and Emily – wearing their bronze medals round their necks – took part in a question and answer session at the Inter-District Championships and handed out the winners’ medals. They also revealed that they had very different experiences of school hockey.

For Laura, Glasgow Academy was a “massive” influence. “I loved all sports at school and played hockey in winter and tennis and athletics in summer,” said the Glasgow Western midfielder.

“But I loved the team spirit of hockey and really enjoyed the Saturday morning matches. We won the Scottish Schools Cup three years in a row.”

By contrast, Emily attended Paisley Grammar – and never struck a hockey ball on a school playing field.

“It wasn’t a hockey school,” she explained. “But I joined the Kelburne Club when I was five years old and that’s how I started. I do wish the state schools played more hockey. It’s a real shame that they don’t because it is a great sport. But the private sector seem to have better facilities.”

For both Scots, winning the bronze medal in London was a definite career highlight – and both 24-year-olds hope to go on and retain their places for Rio 2016.

“The Olympics were definitely the best two weeks of my life,” said Emily.

“And it’s great to come back here to the Inter-District Championships and pass on the experience to so many young hockey players.”

Confirming the dominance of the private school sector, George Watson’s College had six players – Ailsa Small, Waverley Miller, Catriona MacLellan, Marnie Davidson, Eilidh Thomson and Kirsten Peters – in the victorious East squad.

In the under-16 Championship, the result came down to goal difference. In the final match, East beat West 1-0, but the visiting team took the title on goal difference (plus five against plus two).

The Inter-District Championships double as the selection event for the 2012/13 Scottish squads – and some on show might even be attempting to join Emily and Laura in Team GB in Brazil in four years’ time.