SAC Liam Sanford at World Cup 101218 CREDIT ENGLAND HOCKEY .jpg

Tokyo Olympics: RAF Hockey Star Gives Inside Scoop On Team GB Camp

SAC Liam Sanford at World Cup 101218 CREDIT ENGLAND HOCKEY .jpg

Senior Aircraftman Liam Sanford has compared the Olympic Village to military accommodation as he gave Forces News his insight into the Team GB camp.

SAC Sanford is hoping to be a key part of GB's hockey team during the tournament in Tokyo.

He's preparing for their first match against South Africa and has been in Asia for a couple of weeks.

He says the Olympic Village is similar to military operations he's been involved with in the past.

"To be honest, it just reminds me a bit like 'commies' (military accommodation)," he said.

"You've got a lot more nations here, a lot more athletes and, obviously, staff to go with it.

"It's that vibe. Everyone is here to represent their country and their own sport.

“Everyone's really nice and people are always saying hello."

The England international has been on big trips with a hockey team before, including the World Cup in India.

But, he says this experience is different: "My flat has got seven people in and, obviously, it's nice in that respect.

"You've got your roommate but, within your flat, you have other people to socialise with, so it makes it a lot closer environment in terms of that.

"Pretty much every evening we've sat on the balcony over our amazing view and just played cards and just chatted away as a flat, which is so different because of your normal tournaments when you are just with your roommate.

"Those kinds of things are definitely special and make the tournament really knitted together really well," he added.

RAF Senior Aircraftman Liam Sanford 121218 Credit England Hockey.jpg
Senior Aircraftman Liam Sanford was a key part of England's successful run at the 2018 World Cup (Picture: England Hockey).

The Tokyo Olympics was originally due to be staged in 2020 but, due to COVID-19, was delayed by 12 months.

Despite getting the go-ahead, the threat of coronavirus is still very real at the event and precautions are taken at every step.

But for Sanford, it's what he expected: "It's just part and parcel with this Olympics.

"You kind of get used to it and focus on what you have to do in your particular sport."

The Olympic Village can be infamous for cutting athletes off from the outside world to focus on their sport.

However, the RAF star is in contact with friends and family and feeling their support.

"Every day I'm talking to friends, family and my partner," he said. "Funnily enough, we just got a puppy 10 days before I came out here, so I'm getting facetimed lots of pictures of the puppy!

"And of course, you do miss home, but everyone at home is so supportive and it's nice to get updates from home because it can be quite daunting coming in here and just focusing constantly on hockey all the time.

"You do definitely need to break free from that occasionally."

GB Hockey kick off their Olympic adventure against South Africa before games against sides including Germany and Belgium to come.

Sanford says the focus needs to be one game at a time: "As a squad, we're feeling really good. We're happy and very confident that we've done the prep work.

"Every game is going to be different.

"We can only take every game as it comes."