Team England hockey tyro Fiona Crackles feels she’s milked the benefits of growing up on a farm in Cumbria.

The Olympic bronze medallist, who spent her childhood on a dairy and sheep farm near Kirkby Lonsdale, has been chosen to represent the host nation at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

In her short time at international level Crackles has carved out a niche as a tough-tackling midfielder and hard worker, values she says were instilled by her agricultural upbringing.

“Farming is a huge part of who I am,” said the 22-year-old.

“It’s just what was normalised from when I was brought up, Easter holidays aren’t Easter holidays, they’re lambing time which is probably the most tiring time of the year.

“My parents never sat down - when you’re sitting down, you’re eating and that work ethic was just normalised from a young age.

“I try to be gritty and be hard working and I hope to always hold myself to those qualities. I feel very lucky to grow up where I did, I’m a very proud farmer’s daughter!”

Having attended Queen Elizabeth School, Crackles is a rarity in the upper echelons of English hockey being state-educated. Half of the women’s team that won Olympic gold at Rio 2016 were educated at fee-paying schools and the majority of Premier Division clubs are in the south-east of England.

True to her character Crackles, who went to Durham University and now plays club hockey for Wimbledon, relished having to bang the door down.

“I didn’t think being from the north of England would come to benefit me as a player,” she said. “It always seemed like a hindrance.

“You have to travel a bit further to get into the top clubs and in one sense, it is harder. I just took it as fuel to motivate me to improve and bring those fighting qualities.

“I’m very lucky to have what I have and you’ve got to use it to your advantage. I’ve found other things I can bring to the table and they are now my strengths.”

Crackles is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

She found favour under former England coach Mark Hager and profited from the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, making her international debut in late 2020.

She was catapulted into the squad for her first major, the European Championships in June 2021, and then to the Olympics where she helped Team GB bring back bronze.

Now under the stewardship of David Ralph, England are taking four debutants in their 18-strong squad for the home Commonwealth Games.

England won silver at Glasgow and bronze on the Gold Coast four years ago, continuing a superb record of reaching the podium at multi-sport Games.

“It's amazing to be part of a team that has been so successful,” said Crackles.

“I think a big thing for every Games is that it's a completely new set of girls. I guess there's this perceived pressure of getting medals but each group brings new assets and skills.

“It would be amazing to medal but we’re all at the start of a new Olympic cycle, a new journey, so there’s kind of no pressure.”

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