Neuroscience, tacos and Eminem: Meet Olympic gold medallist Lily Owsley

Lily Owsley/Neuroscience, tacos and Eminem: get to know Olympic gold medallist Lily Owsley
Lily Owsley said she felt relief after helping Britain to qualify for the Paris Olympics with a recent victory over Ireland - Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Lily Owsley was part of Great Britain’s gold medal-winning hockey team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and helped the squad to secure their place at the Paris Games last month. Here she discusses bad habits, reality television and time travel.

How did you celebrate qualifying for the Paris Olympics last month?

It was more of a relief than celebrating. On paper we were one of the teams that should qualify and it felt like we’d done the job we came to do, then subconsciously we could change focus to the Olympics.

Everyone had friends, family and partners there, and we all went back to the hotel together. It was very nice, nothing too crazy.

Describe yourself in three words

Optimistic, driven, light-hearted.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

In Harry Potter they call it apparate – to just turn up in a place, to teleport. I love travelling, seeing the world, seeing friends and family. This will sound quite sad as a 29-year-old but I get homesick on the road. I’d love to pop back to have a cuppa with Mum or see my siblings and my nephew. I do that anyway but it would be a lot easier than the two-and-a-bit hours from London to Bristol.

What is your worst habit?

Some of my friends would say slurping my tea, but it would have to be storytelling. I can start a story, go off on 20 different tangents and then finish with a different story to the one I started with. My dad says, “Get to the point, get to the point”.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

We would go to France every year, to a little cottage in Brittany. We would go cycling, to beaches, barbecue… Those are special memories from my childhood. And we still do it to this day; we’re going out in the summer. We have a pact to go in the sea every day. So even if it’s stormy and rainy, we run in and out, with our towels ready in the car.

What is your favourite WhatsApp group?

I have a few. My family one is great. Then I have one with my closest friends in hockey called “Gezellig”, which means cosy in Dutch. That is fun. There’s my Bristol girls’ chat and the team WhatsApp group, with the GB players, is very fun.

What is your most prized possession?

I’d have to say my degree or my Olympic gold medal [from 2016].

What is your degree in?

I have a Masters in neuroscience. I finished studying not too long ago so I am looking at doing part-time work in different areas, but the Olympics is my priority.

I’m not 100 per cent sure what I want to do, but I’m doing part-time work with the Alzheimer’s Society research network and love the clinical side of neuroscience. I would love to end up combining my major passions: sport performance and neuroscience. If I can find a job that integrates those two passions, I’d be very lucky. There is a lot going into it in the States, the UK and Spain is following, looking at how we can use neuroscience to help cognitive performance. There’s research into using neuroscience to develop areas like confidence.

Lily Owsley (left)/Neuroscience, tacos and Eminem: get to know Olympic gold medallist Lily Owsley
Lily Owsley (left) is focusing on this summer's Games having recently completed a Master's degree - Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

What song gets you on the dancefloor?

I’d be running for 5,6,7,8 by Steps. I also love Proud Mary and Islands in the Stream. If those come on at a wedding I’m there, although I’m generally on the dancefloor at a wedding from start to finish.

What is your dream three-course meal and who is your dream dinner guest?

I’d start with ceviche and then I’m torn between tacos and sushi. Mexican and Japanese cuisine are my absolute favourites. I’ll go tacos. Then sticky toffee pudding.

Eminem would be the guest. I listen to his music before every game – the Curtains Up album [The Eminem Show] and Lose Yourself is the main song – and we could do a little collab rap. I can pretty much rap most Eminem songs, but I don’t know whether that is a good thing.

Who is the one person you would like to meet, dead or alive?

At this point in time, Andrew Huberman, the neuroscientist. He’s really interesting and has some conflicting opinions to other research. I’d love to pick his brains and to play devil’s advocate. I enjoy listening to his podcasts but like anything about science or health or your body, you need to have other people’s opinions and do your own research.

If you could go on any reality TV show what would it be?

I was watching Love Island before this call but I’m not picking that. I would go on SAS: Who Dares Wins. I love the outdoors, I love hiking, I love being mentally pushed to my limits, I love proving I can’t be broken. I also think I’d be pretty good at I’m a Celebrity.

If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or go to the future?

Everything is always progressing so if I went back in time, I’d be ahead of people. It would be difficult, particularly with women in sport. I wouldn’t enjoy it. If I went forward in time, I would be behind and I don’t like to ever be behind. I wouldn’t want to be the person who didn’t know how to work the technology. But I’d go forward, I’d like to see where we are in 50 years.

What is the best book you have ever read?

The Brain by Daniel Eagleman.

And what is your favourite TV show?

The Fall – I walked past Jamie Dornan in Richmond the other day – or Grey’s Anatomy. I love a medical drama.

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