Islington People: Hockey star thanks sport for keeping him out of trouble

Olympic hopeful talks about the opportunities given to him

�Olympic hopeful Darren Cheesman says his life could have turned out very differently if it was not for sport.

The 25-year-old hockey international grew up in Walkinshaw Court, off Rotherfield Street, Islington – and still lives there.

He returned to the Great Britain fold this week after being sidelined with injury since January.

The star says it is the sport he loves that helped steer him away from the troubled path taken by other kids at school and on his estate.


He said: “People were getting mixed up in gangs, alcohol, drugs, crime and all that kind of stuff.

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“I wouldn’t say everyone turned out bad, but the fact I was away from all of that because I was training every night meant I had something more positive to focus on.

“I can’t thank the people who helped me around that time enough, because you never know what might have happened.”

Darren is a major contender for the London 2012 squad, and he scored on his full international debut in November last year.

He is part of the current 24-man squad, and on track to make the cut when it is trimmed to 16 for the Games.

He has Arsenal to thank because it was the club’s community work at his primary school, Rotherfield, in Rotherfield Street, that introduced him to hockey.

“Instead of teaching us football they taught us hockey,” he said.

“They made it so fun and exciting and I loved it. From then I was playing every night of the week – I just practised, practised, practised.”

The forward plays his club hockey for East Grinstead in the English Premier League, where he was voted Player of the Year in 2008.

He was an Olympic silver medalist with the Great Britain junior side in 2007.

He has packed a lot into his life so far – juggling marriage, fatherhood and a part-time business career with his rigorous regime of training and competition.

He has worked for polling firm YouGov and is now employed by the O2 – but his main focus has always been the Olympics.

He said: “It’s been my dream since I was 10. It wouldn’t just be great for me, but for everyone who has helped me. If things keep going as they are, hopefully I will make it.”