Leah Williamson is thrilled at the prospect of becoming an Olympian this summer having been named in Great Britain’s squad – something she admits she had doubts would be the case.
The 24-year-old England and Arsenal defender is part of an 18-strong squad for the Tokyo Games selected by Hege Riise that was announced on Thursday.
It is to be the second time a British team have competed in the women’s football at an Olympics, London 2012 having been the first.
Asked how it felt that she was going to be an Olympian, Williamson told a press conference: “The best feeling ever really.
“These are the type of moments that, when you’re younger and you imagine your career, you just think are boxes you’ll end up ticking off, and then as you get older you realise ‘oh actually, that might not happen’.
“So to actually be here, with a Team GB squad even available to be in, it’s literally beyond my wildest dreams.”
She added: “We sort of had a time when we’d find out if we had or hadn’t got in. I told my mum ‘I just want to be on my own, I don’t have the greatest feeling, so I’ll stay on my own’.
“I just texted her saying ‘I made it’, and then the doorbell rang, and she’d driven to be outside my door with a bunch of flowers. She knows how to make an entrance, my mum! It was lovely.
“It’s a difficult question, ‘would you rather be an Olympian or win a World Cup’ or whatever. But I just think, for me, growing up, this was always something that felt like it was slightly further away, and that gave me all the more reason to want to achieve it. So it’s so surreal to be here now.”
Regarding potential GB success at the Games, Williamson said: “We’ll be going to win it, why wouldn’t we? We have to have those ambitions because of the talent that’s in the squad.”
Another England defender in the squad is Demi Stokes, one of 11 Manchester City players selected.
On the moment she heard of her inclusion, the 29-year-old full-back said: “I was absolutely buzzing.
“I was almost laughing to myself because you watch the Olympics growing up, and look out for all the sports, but to be able to think you’re going to be an Olympian…It’s an unbelievable honour. I feel really proud.”
There was no place in the squad for Stokes’ fellow City and England left-back Alex Greenwood, who can also play at centre-back.
On Thursday Greenwood wrote on Twitter: “Completely devastated to miss out on Olympic selection, after what I feel has been one of my strongest seasons. I gave it everything I could but sometimes that is football. I wish them all the best for this summer.”
When Riise was asked about leaving out Greenwood and including Stokes, she made reference to the latter’s experience and said: “She has played in the three position for a long, long time, and that was the position that we felt, defensively, we had some issues.”
Stokes said: “I’m gutted Alex wasn’t selected but we don’t pick the team. I know she’ll get her head down and keep working hard, and there are other things she can look forward to. I know she’ll be fine.”
Stokes has also spoken about getting involved in Hope United, an initiative launched this week by BT aimed at tackling online hate.
“To be honest, social media isn’t my best friend, it’s not my favourite thing,” Stokes said.
“But at Hope United, I think it’s important that I have a role to play, and I think I can help out, help young people and educate.”