Hemp wants to fly Norfolk flag at Tokyo Olympics
- Credit: PA
Lauren Hemp hopes her searing rise to the dizzy Olympic heights can inspire the next generation of Norfolk’s female footballers.
The 20-year-old, from North Walsham, is the youngest member of Hege Riise’s 18-stong squad for Japan after enjoying another storming season at Manchester City.
East Anglia is one of the few UK regions without an elite level women’s club and after spending seven years in the Norwich academy, ambitious Hemp was forced to relocate.
Hemp has emerged as one of Gareth Taylor’s hottest City prospects and says an Olympic debut this summer can blaze a trail for others to follow.
“I’m really proud to come from the area that I do,” said Hemp. “Sadly, there isn’t a WSL or Championship team round there, so I had to move away from home at a very young age. I think it’s good having someone from that area who is going on to compete in an Olympics.
“I knew that when I was watching the London 2012 Olympics that I wanted to be just like those girls playing, and I’m hoping that I can inspire some of those girls, and the next generation, to hopefully want to play professional football.
“I think it’s massive for the game and massive for young girls wanting to play football when they’re older. It will definitely help the growth of the women’s game especially.
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“It feels pretty surreal and hard to put into words how I feel – the Olympics are something that I’ve grown up dreaming of. I just can’t wait to get started. If you’d have told me 10 years ago that I’d be competing at an Olympics aged 20, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It’s pretty surreal and I just can’t wait to get going.”
Hemp was reared under the Canaries’ wing between 2008 and 2015 before Bristol City came calling the following year. A successful two-year spell in the West Country followed before Hemp was soon catapulted into the FA WSL big time.
Her performances saw her rewarded with an England debut against Portugal in 2019 and after another successful season at City, Hemp’s place on the plane to Japan is secure.
Riise’s team also have to navigate their way past hosts Japan and Canada but buoyant Hemp reckons they can go all the way.
The former North Walsham Youth star, who was awarded PFA Young Player of the Year in both 2018 and 2020, added: “You’ve got to beat the best to be the best.
“I believe this team can reach whatever heights that they want to. I know that we can go there and win a medal.
“Hopefully it’s the gold one – we’re going to keep pushing, working hard, preparing for it and I know that we’ll be in the best possible position with the coaches working hard around us and the talented squad that is here.
“With a group of talented players we can achieve so much, and I just can’t wait to get going.”
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