Hockey-playing physiotherapist Cheryl Valentine is ready to bid for glory at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in March
Ms Valentine, who works for the community neuromusculoskeletal outpatient service in Lothian, is currently Scotland team vice-captain. Although squad selection for the Melbourne Games is still to be confirmed, the central midfielder looks assured of her place. She has won 74 caps and scored 17 goals since stepping up to senior level at the age of 20 after playing internationally since she was 14. She told Frontline: 'I'm looking forward to playing on a big stage. We're a fairly amateur sport and we rarely get the publicity and exposure that other sports receive.' Ms Valentine leaves work for fitness training almost every night, and weekends are taken up with matches and more coaching. 'I have to take unpaid leave and use all my holidays to play hockey. It's a full-time commitment on top of a full-time job as well.' She adds: 'At the moment the NHS doesn't have any UK-wide policy for special leave for international athletes, which makes it quite difficult for taking a long period of time off.' With qualifying rounds for the next world championships starting just three weeks after the Games, Ms Valentine may need to take a two-month break from work. She explains: 'That makes it really difficult, and it's why we're looking to publicise this a bit better to see if we can push for a change.' Scotland's opening game is against New Zealand with auld rivals England next up. The squad escaped frozen pitches at home to train in Gibraltar before Christmas and has lined up more warm weather conditioning to gear up for Melbourne. Ms Valentine studied sports manual therapy in Australia after graduating from Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh. She envisages returning to Australia at some stage for further study and hopes to compete for Great Britain in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Such exotic destinations must be worth all the hardship of training, surely? 'To be honest we might as well go to Motherwell for all we see of these places. The hockey pitch and the hotel and the bus in between, that's about it. My passport looks glamorous but really it's not,' she laughs.
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