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Ash Nelson talks to a former teammate and Hockeyroos Captain Nikki Hudson who retired in 2009 with 303 caps for Australia — the second highest for a female hockey player. Nikki tells us how, despite her success, some of her biggest challenges were off the field. It’s a candid conversation about the realities of being an elite athlete, of being on top of your game and a dependable team player, and then what happens when the applause dies down. Nikki has now found what she believes is her calling and is happier than she’s ever been driving a tractor on 180 acres in NSW.
“I’m the life of the party without having to have a drop of alcohol. It’s funny I didn’t realize how bad a dancer I was until I now have to dance sober. Oh my God, I thought I had moves, I really don’t.”
Podcast length: 41′ 35″
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“By the time we got to the Sydney Olympic, and of course at the previous Olympics that the girls had won at, we almost knew that we were unbeatable because we had done everything possible to ensure we were in the best form of our lives.
“People keep saying how did you do it for so long and you have your setbacks and all that but for me I made the choice, along with everyone else that did it, and the choice to do it not because it’s easy but because it’s hard, you make the choice to being an elite athlete so that what you have to be and the discipline that you have to have, the training ethic, the work ethic, all of that is that of an elite athlete and so it’s never going to be easy and so I look back at it now and wonder how I did half of the stuff I ever did. I must have been extremely, extremely motivated and focused because there’s no way I think I could do it now or even do half of it and I guess that’s what keeps you being driven and all of thats that you have this one focus to number one be the best you can and then be the best you can as a member of a team. I don’t know, maybe it’s just a different mindset that sets athletes apart from other people. I was never entirely happy with the way I played, there was always something I could have done better, even though I retired with an Olympic gold medal and a lot of other personal achievements, you know I still look back and think there were things I could have done a lot better, I could have been a much better player and so I guess you’re never fully satisfied, you’re always looking for the next challenge in life.
“We’ve got a 180 acres here and we actually…and we farm Canary Island Palm Trees and we got about 3000 of them on our property here, I’m basically out driving tractors, bobcats, farm trucks getting dirty every day and I could not be happier, it’s my calling in life I believe. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, a lady living on the land. “
She made her debut for Australia in 1993 and won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her AHL team is the Queensland Scorchers. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, she scored in Australia’s first two games, scoring the second goal in an epic comeback to win 5-4 against Korea, and a skillful individual effort against Spain. The goal against Spain was her 98th international goal, in her 299th international appearance. Her 99th goal for Australia came against South Africa in the following match. The match was Hudson’s 300th appearance for her country, as she became the first woman to play 300 international Hockey matches for Australia.