O’Connor & Tait: GB fully focused on qualification

Great Britain’s Ben O’Connor and Ashley Tait are fully focused on progressing to the next stage of the Olympic qualifiers.

GB had two on-ice sessions in Coventry on Tuesday, before flying out to Italy ahead of Thursday’s opening game with Netherlands.

“We had a productive day on Tuesday and I think it’s important in our preparation for such a big tournament,” said O’Connor (above).

“It was excellent to get the squad together and go through some important finer details for the next few days.

“Everyone’s spirits are high and it is good to spend time with the boys again.”

After facing Netherlands, GB take on Serbia before rounding the tournament off with a match against hosts Italy.

“We are going to have to turn up every night,” added O’Connor. “There’s no time to feel your way into the tournament – you have to be focused from the first face-off.

“We came through this stage four years ago and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.

“But we must not take a shift off throughout the next few games. Everyone is looking forward to beginning our Olympic journey.

“It’s very special to wear the GB shirt and that extra bit special with it being an Olympic qualifier.”

Tait (above) admitted he is bursting with pride to be involved in the international set-up once again.

The 40-year-old, who first featured for his country in 1995, said: “I’m so excited to be pulling on a GB shirt again in such an important tournament.

“You can’t beat that special feeling and I feel as proud now as I did when I won my first GB cap. Olympic tournaments make it that extra bit special too.

“There’s a great feeling in the camp which is great to see and we have a squad who will give their all in every shift over the coming days.”

It’s 80 years since GB famously won gold in 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany, but the nation has not qualified since 1948.

“It’s amazing to think GB won gold in 1936 and it does inspire you,” Tait added. “Obviously we’re a long way from qualifying for a Winter Olympics with two rounds to negotiate, but it does get your pulses racing.

“We have to take each game as it comes and if we get through this stage, we come up against some seriously quality nations in the final qualifying.

“That is way into the distance at the moment, but it drives you and is an exciting thought.”

(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)

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