Atlanta, Georgia on their minds

May 10, 1996

Hockey has been Guy Fordham's passion since the age of 12. He began playing the game at Kingston Grammar School and found himself progressing from school team to county level and thence to the England under-16s by the age of 15.

Today, at the age of 20, Fordham is a serious Olympic hopeful. He will know in about one month's time whether he has made it into the squad which will play for the United Kingdom in Atlanta in July. He is not counting any chickens but the signs are good. Fordham, along with Oxford University's John Wyatt, was in the hockey team in Barcelona that enabled Britain to qualify for the Olympic games in January this year.

Like other students who aim high in sport Fordham manages to combine his degree in medicine at Southampton University with his sport. It is a bit of a mystery how he does so. Until this year when he had to drop university hockey for fear he would injure himself in the run-up to the Olympics, he had been training and playing university hockey intensively as well as playing and training with his own club in Hounslow, west London.

At present he is training five or six days each week for an hour or two a day. That consists of running around the park and the athletics track, lifting weights in the gym, as well as playing hockey. "You have to be fairly fit, so you end up doing all sorts of training," says Fordham.

Money has not been a problem because he sought, and won, Army sponsorship in his second year. And he has been awarded grants by the Sports Aid Foundation for help with training expenses. He is being paid a second lieutenant's salary, around Pounds 10,000 a year, and will work in the Royal Army Medical Corps for six years once he is qualified. The sponsorship has brought him peace of mind.

Before that he had to rely on his student loans, bank overdrafts and part-time work in the vacations. But that part-time work ate into precious time for hockey training. Now he can train all year round.

Fordham makes the build-up to the Olympics sound relatively effortless. He has suffered no recent injury and is managing to juggle his studies with the sport. It transpires, however, that his tutors have insisted that he repeat the current year if he is selected to play in the Olympics. He would rather not stay down a year but, forced to choose, he knows where his priorities lie. "I really wanted to concentrate on the hockey," he says. "It's a one-off thing that I really wanted to do."

One thing a hockey-playing medical student has to contend with is alcohol - the drug of choice for his peers. Fordham has to drink lemonade instead. "I have not stopped drinking altogether," he says. "But I don't drink as much as the rest. That has been difficult."

Because he is so young, he has numerous hockey-playing years ahead of him. You are not considered burnt-out in this sport until the age of 30. Fordham is clearly looking ahead to the Sydney games in the year 2000. One day he will settle down and be a doctor, he says.

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