Road to Rio: Anna Flanagan tells us what it's like to be a female athlete going to the Olympics.

In the coming weeks, 450 athletes will represent Australia at the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Jeneiro, Brazil.

Since the first woman represented Australia in the Olympics in 1912, the percentage of Australian female athletes has steadily increased.

In Munich, 1972, 16% of our Olympic team were women.

In London, 2012, 45% of our Olympic team were women.

In Rio, 2016, the team is equally split. And 25-year-old Anna Flanagan is among them.

Anna with her father, who coached her right up until she made the national team. Image supplied. 

Mamamia spoke to Flanagan and asked her everything we were desperate to know about life as a female Olympic athlete.

Flanagan will represent Australia in hockey as a defender. When we asked what kind of obstacles she has faced as a woman in sport, she told us that hockey is one of only a handful of sports in Australia where men and women are paid equally. We were flabbergasted.

"I think hockey's one of those really lucky sports...although I've faced obstacles as a female so have the men in hockey, that we're trying to get our sport out there. Get it more well known."

Despite the Hockeyroos being one of the most successful Australian sporting teams, winning back to back Gold medals from 1996-2000, and currently ranking second in the world, most of us would struggle to name one player.

The Hockeyroos are currently ranked second in the world. Image supplied. 

In the lead up to the games, Flanagan and her team are living in Perth and training full time, six days a week, from about 9-4. While most of us struggle to fill an hour at the gym, their longest training sessions run for almost four hours, followed by the gym. With no family around, Flanagan says "We don’t have many other people... we’re family now."


Such intense training is coupled with a focus on nutrition, but Flanagan revealed exclusively to Mamamia that every now and then she indulges in a Mars Bar. We repeat: Olympians eat Mars Bars.

"It’s not as strict as say something like gymnastics," Flanagan says.

"We do get our body fat tested every six weeks but in saying that, we believe more in everything in moderation. We do have a clean eating lifestyle. Not so much fast food and that kind of thing but really it’s not totally strict where you can’t eat certain foods. But in saying that if we have a heavy training week and there’s a Mars Bar, yeah we’ll eat a mars bar."

This is Flanagan's second Olympic Games. Image supplied. 

Flanagan is fiercely competitive and has her eye (well, both of them) firmly set on the Gold medal. She admits that if they don't win she'll be disappointed, but in the end it all comes down to how they perform. The greatest failure would be for the team not to play their best after four years of grueling training.

But Flanagan's drive extends beyond the hockey field. With all the spare time she had pursuing a career in professional hockey, she studied sports journalism full time, successfully making every other 25-year-old feel like an underachieving failure. She reflects it was "very stressful... I don't know if I'd do it again that way." Since finishing her degree, she has (somehow) pursued professional journalism, working at Fox Sports in Perth.

We will be watching out for Flanagan in Rio, and wish her all the best.

Video by: Nia Nguyen

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