Crista Cullen is back!

Crista Cullen celebrates scoring in the Olympic Bronze medal match against NZ in London

The images of a delighted Crista Cullen celebrating yet another goal on the way to an Olympic Bronze medal at London 2012 are amongst the most iconic associated with the competition. The former Leicester defender wowed the crowds with some dominant performances and finished as joint top scorer in the tournament and now, after almost three years out of action, she is back, ready to take her place in the World League squad.

It’s been a long time coming but now, with the World League Finals in Argentina on the horizon, Cullen is raring to go again:

“Having gone through a period of training I’m now looking forward to playing again. Playing in Argentina is always amazing because the crowds and the people are so passionate it’ll be great to get back there and be competitive again.”

The news of her return to the central training squad broke back in July and caused plenty of buzz in hockey circles, including many asking what had prompted her return to the colours:

“I retired after London because I wanted to finish on a high. I had my reasons to go back to my family in Africa which was a huge pull for me.” she says. “I wasn’t sure I would still have the drive for a four year campaign again having done Athens, Beijing and London previously. Then I went home and had some time out, was normal and had a job and was very happy. Having watched from afar and been given the opportunity to come back I couldn’t turn it down. It’s a once in a lifetime chance and I’m hugely privileged to be in the position to try and get into the Olympic squad. I’m still fit so I thought I’d give it a go. Worst case scenario for me personally is I don’t quite do enough to get in, but I make the group more competitive in the process.”

Crista Cullen moves forwards with the ball

The physical fitness that characterised her in the past is still there. There is no doubt Cullen is still a phenomenal athlete, but after three years out, how were her hockey skills?

“There are a few things that I need to work on. Trying not to get frustrated was the key given how long I had been away from the game but sometimes you have to laugh at yourself. You know what to do but of course having been able to do something previously and then struggling to execute a skill isn’t ideal. I’m getting there and I’m heading in the right direction. I wasn’t as bad as I thought so hopefully I’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to getting out to Argentina and competing again.”

Of course one skill she still has firmly in the locker is her ability from penalty corners. In 2012 she netted five times at the Olympics and was one of the most feared exponents of the drag flick in the women’s game. With corners playing an ever more important part in the modern game, Cullen is confident she can come up with the goods from set pieces for Great Britain:

“Something like drag flicking you don’t forget how to do so it’s about honing it to get it as good as I can again. We need to win corners in order to have the opportunity and it’s then our job to convert them. I’ll be taking my share of the responsibility and I’m confident I can have a positive impact on things.”

It’s been a long wait, but tonight, against the hosts, Crista Cullen is back. Argentina’s goalkeepers have been warned.

You can watch all the action from Great Britain's opening pool match of the World League Finals live on BT Sport from midnight tonight UK time. All the TV guide information is here.

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