The last time Great Britain won a gold medal in field hockey was in 1920. Then the British relinquished mastery of the sport they had perfected to the Indians, the Dutch, the Germans and the Pakistanis. But on Saturday on the artificial pitch of Songnam Stadium, south of Seoul, Great Britain defeated West Germany 3-1 to win the men's gold medal. What's more, it completed something of a jolly old sweep; the day before, the Brits' sisters from Down Under won Australia's first field hockey gold medal, defeating South Korea 2-0.
Field hockey is often thought of as an elitist sport, but in fact both the British men and the Australian women were led by nonaristocratic heroes. Imran Sherwani, who scored the first and last goals for Great Britain, owns a newsstand in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The goalie, Ian Taylor, is a 34-year-old middle school science teacher from Bromsgrove in the Midlands area of England.
Australian team captain Deborah Bowman, a 25-year-old, freckle-faced, ponytailed counter clerk at a McDonald's in Perth, scored the winning goal on a penalty stroke against South Korea. Five days earlier, Bowman had missed a similar opportunity in a 5-5 tie with the "red bees," as the South Koreans were dubbed by local papers. This time she connected. After the women's match the president of South Korea, Roh Tae Woo, congratulated each Korean player, but they were so ashamed of their loss that they kept their chins down on their chests, forcing the president to twist his neck sideways as he tried to make eye contact.
Princess Anne was in the stands to cheer on the British men, and after the game, HRH shook the hands of several players. Asked what she had said to him, goalie Taylor replied, "She said that she has seen us play many times and that we have never lost in her presence." With the help of the princess, Great Britain is once again the king.
The red bees lost their sting against Australia and couldn't face their president afterward.