Celebrated Northland hockey player Stacey Michelsen has her mind firmly set on gold after being named to captain the national women's hockey team headed to the Tokyo Olympics.
Michelsen was excited long-time friend and Northland hockey team-mate, Ella Gunson, would again be donning the Black Sticks strip alongside the veteran during her third Olympic appearance.
"We started playing hockey together and then go to an event like this together so many years later – it's so special," Michelsen said.
Both Michelsen and Gunson made their Olympic debut in 2012 and have passed 200 caps as a Black Stick.
Michelsen is the country's most capped women's player of all time with 291 matches under her belt.
Her vast experience has helped her look beyond what has been her strangest build-up yet to an Olympic tournament.
"For me, I'm definitely excited about it," Michelsen said. "Throughout the year there have been mixed emotions but now we can feel a real shift in the group because it's so close."
Last year's lockdowns saw the Black Sticks train in different parts of the country as they were unable to all be based in Auckland, which was the norm.
The Netherlands – a team that consistently performs – would be a tough challenge for the squad of 16, Michelsen said.
"Every game is going to be so hard. Every single game we play is going to be so difficult."
But these are the challenges Michelsen has lived for, ever since she picked up a hockey stick as a child.
"From a young age, as young as I can remember having a hockey stick in my hand, I've always wanted to go to the Olympic Games," she said.
She encouraged any young hockey player with the same ambitions to know that anyone willing to work for it can make it a reality.
The Black Sticks head to Perth next Friday, alongside the men's team, to play two doubleheaders against Australia.