SHE might be one of Great Britain’s top hockey stars, but Alex Danson has had her fair share of ups and downs.

And alongside embracing the positives that all the highs have brought her, the forward from Southampton believes the lows are also force for good in her career, and can drive both her and her team to success in the London Olympics next summer.

Already a highly-experienced international player with both Great Britain and England at the age of 26, Danson told the Advertiser of the rollercoaster ride she has undergone within hockey over the last few years.

“I think the amazing thing about sport is you experience the absolute highs and the absolute lows,” she explained. “But that always gives you that extra little kick to want to find those gold medals and podium spots.

“Certainly a low was in 2006 when we played a pool game against India in the World Cup and we needed three points to go through to the semi-finals. It was huge, no England team had ever done that.

“I remember being given the ball at the top of the D and took it round the keeper and had an open goal, and I missed it. I remember finishing that game and I was devastated, I felt absolutely terrible.

“I came away from the tournament and I really thought about it, and thought maybe it wasn’t for me. But had I given up at that point, I would never have gone to the Olympic Games (in Beijing), which was one of the most incredible tournaments of my life.

“Fours year later (in 2010) at another World Cup, we got into the semi-finals and lost on strokes (to the Netherlands), which was devastating. But we were able to pick ourselves up for our bronze game, and that was the most incredible game of hockey I’ve ever played in, there were 35,000 people there.

“I had a very similar opportunity against Germany in that game and this time thankfully the ball did go in the back of the net (England eventually triumphed 2-0).

“We won the bronze medal and to stand on the podium with all your buddies in front of that many people was incredible, I’ll never forget it.”

In London next summer Great Britain will find their toughest opposition coming from the likes of Argentina, Holland, China, Germany but they can afford to be confident, their fortunes having increased dramatically in recent years.

Danson explained: “Since 2005 we’ve started a programme where we’re much more full-time and we’ve gone from being ranked 11th in the world to fourth, so our ranking has come up dramatically.

“We’re pretty much full-time which is amazing and the results are showing how much that helps, so next year will be really, really exciting. I really believe that the women and the men (who are also ranked fourth and could include Fairford stopper Nick Brothers in their Olympic squad) will medal next year.

“Prior to Beijing, pretty much the entire squad had full-time jobs, so it was a case of getting up at 5am to train, doing your full day’s work and then training in the evening.

“Now we’re centralised at Bisham Abbey, 32 athletes live there and we train at least twice a day, so your contact time together just means you know each other so well and know how each other play.

“Because you have so much contact time together, the depth of what you can cover is in a different league to what we’ve been able to manage previously.

“In team sport there’s other factors that are important to being successful, things like trust and belief that are huge in our squad, trust that we will do all the training and there’s that common respect because you see everybody doing it every day.

“There’s also a belief that actually we’ve been to tournaments and competed with the world’s best. You have to have belief going into tournaments,