London 2012: Let the Games begin!

Barry Middleton has been selected by England hockey to captain the side in the Champions trophy. Picture: Ady Kerry - England Hockey Photographer
Barry Middleton has been selected by England hockey to captain the side in the Champions trophy. Picture: Ady Kerry - England Hockey Photographer

BARRY Middleton will fly the flag for Doncaster when he leads Team GB’s hockey team into battle next week.

The 28-year-old - appearing at his third Olympic Games - will captain Britain in their Pool A opener against Argentina on Monday (7pm).

Bessacarr-born Middleton and his team-mates are aiming to improve upon their fifth place finish at Beijing 2008.

The East Grinstead forward, who began his career at Doncaster Hockey Club, is one of four Doncaster-born athletes competing at London 2012.

Footballer Danny Rose, whose family still live in Wheatley, is hoping to start in midfield in Team GB’s football opener against Senegal tonight (8pm).

Sailor Anna Tunnicliffe, who represents the United States after moving there as a 12-year-old, hopes to follow up her gold medal at Beijing with victory in the new match racing event.

While Bentley’s Taekwondo star Sarah Stevenson must wait until August 10 for her gold medal quest.

The quartet have very realistic chances of figuring on their respective medal podiums - something Middleton is yet to experience at Olympic level.

But Team GB go into the hockey tournament in good shape having won the Tri-Nations warm-up competition in Spain last week.

Head coach Jason Lee said: “We played on the same blue and pink turf in Spain as we will be at the Olympics and we had vaguely British weather too.

“With opponents like India, who are tenth in the world, and Spain fifth we’ve had high quality practice.

“When you include our practice game against the Dutch recently we’ve now won three in a row so we’re building a winning momentum.”

Team GB have won Olympic gold in men’s hockey three times; at the first two tournaments in 1908 and 1920, and most recently at the Seoul 1988 Games.

Middleton is the sixth-most capped player in the team’s history and helped Britain to victory in the fifth/sixth place classification match against Korea four years ago.

He was also a member of the Great Britain squad that finished ninth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Team GB has been drawn in Pool A where they will face Australia, Spain, Pakistan, Argentina and South Africa.

The top two ranked teams will progress to the semi-finals.

n Sarah Stevenson has revealed how focusing on the Olympic Games has helped take her mind off a tragic 2011.

Stevenson lost her father Roy to a brain tumour last July and in November her mother Diana died from cancer.

The reigning world champion is hoping to win gold in London in honour of her parents.

She said: “I think I’ve coped well but there is still a lot of coping to do after the Games.

“The Games has given me something to focus on. That’s the blessing really, I’ve got a job to do.

“That’s what keeps me going, whether that’s right or wrong.

“It stops me wasting a day getting upset.”