Olympic dream becomes reality for 20 year old Hockeyroo

“I started hockey when I was eight because it was advertised in my school newsletter,” 20-year-old Amy Lawton says.

Like many kids around Australia, Lawton grew up playing sport and says whether it was soccer, triathlon, little athletics, basketball or hockey, you would always find her in action.

After moving from the United Kingdom to Australia at the age of seven, she never expected to play hockey for Australia, let alone be the youngest Hockeyroo on the plane heading to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But not everything went to plan.

As the pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide, the Hockeyroos continued to train in Perth in preparation for the Games, only to be told it was postponed.

Lawton acknowledges that deferring the games had much more of an impact on the senior members of the team, because Tokyo 2020 could have been their last chance to shine.

But she had a different outlook because time and youth were on her side.

“I looked at it as more of an opportunity to try and improve and make my mark a little bit more,” she says.

“I’d only just been put into the squad, so I think I was more on the edge of selection for the Olympics at stage, so I tried to look at it a bit more positively.”

Having only recently moved across the country, the extra time gave Lawton a chance to settle in with her host family while also travelling back to Victoria to reconnect with her biological family.

She says she didn’t know many people living in Western Australia, so everything felt foreign to her.

“Being only 17, I didn’t have my license, so I was relying on the girls to take me places like training…it was really different,” she says.

“The family that I moved in with have four kids of their own so it’s a very busy household compared to me and my sister with my mum and dad at my house.”

It was a big change for Lawton.

“I tried to adapt to it as quick as possible – my parents and the VIS [Victorian Institute of Sport] also played quite a big role in trying to prepare me for the move.”

Twelve months on, Lawton maintained her position in the Olympic team, while balancing a heavy course load in her Prosthetics and Orthotics degree at La Trobe University.

The rising star says living in the Athletes Village was special, because everyone there shared a common goal.

“Just being there was so awesome – you’d walk down the street in the village and you’d walk past all these amazing athletes and I might not have known who they were, or what sport they do, but they were elite at it,” she says.

“It was such a cool feeling and atmosphere to be among.”

All athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were subject to restrictions.

No events had physical spectators, allowing a 139 percent increase in viewership across television and digital platforms on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Lawton says knowing her family was watching back home after receiving photos of them dressed up in green and gold was “pretty cool”, but the lack of physical spectators meant she had to lean on her teammates for support.

“My room in Tokyo was full of very senior athletes who had all been to a games before – I had Rach Lynch, Brooke Peris, Emily Chalker, Kate Jenner,” she says.

“It was a very senior and very talented room and I think for me that was awesome because I’d be like ‘hey, what about this?’ or ‘what could I do better here?’ [and] for me, as a young athlete coming through the program, that kind of thing is awesome for me to have.”

The Hockeyroos went through their Olympic campaign undefeated until they came up against India in the quarter final.

Reflecting on the loss, Lawton described the “weird” feeling she got after the match ended, explaining that she felt her team was very much in the game.

“We were potentially a medal chance and for us to go out like that I was just like ‘no that can’t be it, we’ve only lost one game’ in the entire series and that’s knocking us out,” she says.

Despite the loss, she says she felt closer to her team than ever before.

“As much as it did suck, I think back in the change room after the game I’ve never felt so connected to my team ever – everyone was so gutted, staff were in tears, our physio, our tech guy,” she says.

“People who weren’t out on the field were heartbroken.”

You’d think that coming up against some of the best athletes in the world at such a young age would be difficult but Lawton sees her age and inexperience as her biggest strengths.

“They don’t know me … they don’t know what I’m going to do on the ball because they haven’t seen footage of me and I haven’t been there before,” she says.

“I just do my job.”