A horror head injury left me masked and blind in one eye… but I’ll show I’m invincible by winning Commonwealth gold
SAM WARD is ready to show he is “invincible” and lead England to Commonwealth hockey gold.
The masked hero, 31, suffered horrific facial injuries when he was hit by a shot from team-mate Harry Martin in 2019.
The Leicester forward lost the sight in his left eye and had four plates and 31 screws inserted.
But he returned, Zorro- style mask and all, to be Team GB’s five-goal top scorer as they narrowly missed out on a podium place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
And Ward claims the recovery has made him even more fearless than before.
He said: “It was a big step to get back on the pitch after that injury.
“But all athletes are wired differently or they wouldn’t achieve what they have.
“I’m probably wired even more differently — you would probably say I’m just a bit stupid really. Getting back on the pitch was massive.
“If I hadn’t come back and played as before, with bravery, I would be a waste of space and not worth my place in the side.
“I wanted to come back and give it the full hog. If anything the mask makes me feel a bit invincible and probably more stupid.”
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With Australia, Pakistan and Birmingham group rivals India all in the tournament, winning any medal will be a big achievement.
Ward, whose side start their campaign against Ghana on Friday night, added: “It is not a weak tournament at all.
“The Commonwealth Games is really tough as a tournament but we are the third-best ranked nation, so hopefully we can go and perform to that level and maybe even raise a couple of spots. That is the dream.”
Ward is desperate to at least match the bronze he took from beating India in 2018. He added: “I haven’t overcome the challenges of the eye and everything not to play for as long as I can.
Getting a medal would mean the world to me because I haven’t got one since the incident
“For me, after everything I went through, scoring from a penalty corner just two minutes into the first game in Tokyo against South Africa was a moment I would have bottled up and kept.
“When you have suffered day in and day out over a space of 18 months like I had, wondering whether I would be good enough to play international hockey again, to do that just a few minutes into your Olympic debut put it to bed.
“It made me feel it was time to move on with the rest of my career. Getting a medal would mean the world to me because I haven’t got one since the incident.
“So to take home any sort of medal after that would be pretty big because it’s a sign of carrying on and a sense of achievement.
“If I had retired after Tokyo I’d be sat here now thinking about ‘What if?’ and regretting it.
“My plan is to keep grinding and keep going for as long as I can until I don’t earn my selection any more.”
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