Sam Ward ‘took on the challenge and came out the other side’ after eye injury

Ward suffered the effective loss of sight in one eye after being hit by a ball in November 2019.

By Press Association Published: 17 June 2021 - 3.04pm

Sam Ward is focused on turning his “night terrors” into dreams of Olympic gold after being named in the 16-strong Great Britain men’s hockey squad for the Tokyo Games.

Ward suffered the effective loss of sight in one eye after being hit by a ball during an Olympic qualifying match against Malaysia in November 2019.

But remarkably the 30-year-old returned to action just three months later with four metal plates and 31 screws in his face following a gruelling operating procedure.

Great Britain v Spain – FIH Pro League – Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre
Sam Ward finished joint top-scorer at last month’s Euro Hockey tournament (Zac Goodwin/PA)

He underscored his value by finishing as the joint-top scorer at last month’s Euro Hockey tournament and is relishing an opportunity he feared might not arise.

Ward said: “It has obviously been a massive couple of years and I can’t explain how happy I am to have taken on the challenge and to have come out of the other side.

“I’ve made a big step forward after spending a lot of time with a psychologist and the support I’ve had has enabled me to put to bed what happened and thrive off it and use it in the best possible way.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Day Fourteen
Maddie Hinch is one of seven members of victorious Rio women’s team to return (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“All the hard work has been done. I’d like to say the ‘night terrors’ have been put to bed, and mentally now I’m just dreaming of playing in exciting and big games.”

Ward, who now competes in a specially-adapted protective face-mask, conceded that following the initial shock of the incident he faced a battle to adapt his game to cope with his reduced vision.

But his performance last month underlined his ability to remain a star performer in his team’s quest to make up for their disappointing group-stage exit in Rio in 2016.

USA v England – Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup – Pool B – Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre
Laura Unsworth will feature in her third Olympic Games (Steven Paston/PA)

Ward added: “Early on it was about getting used to it – depth and perception were different and it was about trying to adapt.

“I worked with different eye specialists and neural specialists and to try to make my brain think differently. I had to put in a lot of hard work to get used to it, but now it’s time to crack on.”

Ward is one of only four players remaining from the disappointment of Rio alongside captain Adam Dixon, David Ames and Ian Sloan.

In contrast the women’s squad features seven players who were part of the gold medal-winning heroics in 2016, including Laura Unsworth, who will be competing in her third Games, and penalty shoot-out hero Maddie Hinch.

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