Ipswich’s George Pinner wants to establish himself as the world’s best goalkeeper at Rio Olympics

George Pinner will be GB's first-choice keeper in Rio

George Pinner will be GB's first-choice keeper in Rio - Credit: Ady Kerry

Ipswich’s George Pinner wants to establish himself as the best hockey goalkeeper in the world at this summer’s Olympic Games.

Harry Martin in action for England

Harry Martin in action for England - Credit: Ady Kerry

The 29-year-old has been Great Britain and England’s number one ever since a disappointing team showing at London 2012 ushered in a new generation of talent – and now that group heads to Rio aiming to end a 28-year Olympic medal drought.

Earlier this month Pinner was named the official ‘Keeper of the Tournament’, as well as UK Writers’ Player of the Tournament, as Britain finished fourth at the Champions Trophy. It therefore came as no surprise when he was named in Bobby Crutchley’s 16-man Olympic squad – along with Ipswich midfielder Harry Martin – yesterday.

“There are a lot of great goalkeepers in the world game and it’s just nice to be considered among them,” said the Holcombe player, who now has more than 100 international caps under his belt.

“I can’t deny I’m driven to be the best in the world. My form gives me a lot of confidence and it’s important now that I stay relaxed because that’s when I play best.

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“Everyone has a different opinion on what they want from a goalkeeper, but ultimately it’s about being consistent, keeping the ball out of the net and making the saves that win you games.

“As a goalkeeper you always need to be a leader. You need to organise guys in front of you and take charge at penalty corners. I’m a larger than life character and regularly have my say on things.”

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Pinner went to London 2012 as a reserve, while Martin, now 24, was a precocious teenage talent still finding his feet in the international game. Fast forward four years and the duo are experienced players in what is largely a young group.

England have finished fourth at the last two World Cups, losing narrowly to Holland (1-0) in the semi-finals and Argentina (2-0) in the third-place play-off match most recently in 2014. Also that year, they claimed bronze at the Commonwealth Games by beating New Zealand on penalties after losing to Australia (4-1) in the semis.

“We’ve got bigger aims than just going to the Olympics to take part these days – that’s not what we’re about anymore,” said Pinner. “We’re going there looking to win a medal.

“We have made huge strides since this group came together after 2012. We’ve had successes and we’ve had ‘oh so near’ moments too.

“We just missed out on a medal at the World Cup, then we got that bronze at the Commonwealth Games, which broke the duck, but it was hard not feel a bit disappointed it wasn’t more. Our ranking suggested we should have done better, but it just didn’t go to plan in the semi against Australia.

“We have learnt from all of those near misses and I feel like we are in a position to really challenge in Rio. I feel like we are close to doing something special and that we can complete this journey we’ve been on together for the last four years.”

With Australia, Holland and Germany the top three ranked sides in the world, Great Britain are in a group with the Aussies, Belgium, hosts Brazil, Spain and New Zealand – the action taking place between August 6-18.

“We’ll go there ranked fourth in the world so won’t be expected to medal,” said Pinner. “The way I see it, is that we’ve got nothing to lose. In the past I think we have let pressure affect us, so this time we’ll just try and approach it like any other hockey tournament.

“Hopefully we can do well in the group to get a favourable draw in the quarter-finals, win that and, once you’re in the semi-finals anything can happen.”

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