Watkins tells of “amazing” gold success
Telford Tigers coach Tom Watkins has described the “amazing experience” of winning a gold medal with Great Britain at the World Championships.
Watkins was assistant to coach Pete Russell at the tournament in Belfast, which saw GB win promotion to Division 1A – one step below the likes of Canada and Russia.
The national side, which remained unbeaten throughout the six-team competition, sealed top spot with a 4-0 win over second-placed Japan in the final game on Saturday.
And the Tigers chief was delighted to be part of GB’s first promotion-winning campaign since 1993 – just weeks after guiding Telford to the EPL title.
He said: “It was a busy three weeks, with training camp in Coventry and then the tournament in Belfast, but it has been an amazing experience.
“To do it on home soil, in a great city like Belfast, made the whole event such a memorable occasion for us all.
“It wasn’t just a case of beating Japan on Saturday, but the whole process of getting the players together was great, because the guys know each other so well.
“There is great camaraderie in the squad and superb leadership. After just 24 hours together in Coventry, you could feel the keenness from every player.
“I think that was a massive key to the group’s success. The team spirit, the never-say-die attitude, the willingness to fight and compete for each other.
“As a team, it was like the experience you often get at a club side.”
Defenceman Jonathan Weaver was a second Tiger in the Great Britain ranks, with the 40-year-old having first played senior international ice hockey in 2001.
Watkins added: “As an honour, winning the gold medal is right up there in my career, as I am sure it is for all the players, including Jonathan.
“It is always a massive honour to represent your country and of course we were disappointed in the last two years when we won silver.
“To go one better and win gold at your home tournament, with all the added pressure that brings, is a phenomenal achievement for everyone involved.”
Watkins and Russell will now turn their attention to preparations for next year’s tournament – the highest level below the so-called ‘world group’ of leading nations.
“It is a big step up, but I think this group likes to be in the underdog situation,” Watkins said.
“Playing teams like Norway and the others brings the best out of us. It is a very exciting time for the national team and we’re moving up to a tough group.
“It will be very exciting to be there and hopefully it will be another rewarding experience for all of us.
“It’s been a rollercoaster season and I was lucky enough to share the experience with my family, who were in Belfast at the weekend.
“There have been some great memories for my children and hopefully for the people of Telford as well.”