Hockey guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to hockey ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Converted: The most ingenious use of sticks since the drum solo on ‘In the Air Tonight’.

Confused: Like pink champagne and Phillip Schofield, this is one of the few things that’s better on ice.

Hockey - The essential guide

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Street cred: While ice hockey is famous for its brawling hardmen, field hockey is normally considered a sport for girls. There's a fine line between cool and uncool.

Who’s good? The Australian men and the Dutch ladies are the teams to beat.

Glory-hunting potential: Great Britain may not be favourites but they are an up-and-coming force and either the men's or women's team could snatch a medal, especially with a 16,000-strong crowd roaring them on at the Olympic Park Hockey Centre.

The basics: Best described to an alien life form as football with sticks (provided the alien knew what football was), it’s 11-a-side, 35 minutes each way and you have to score within the ‘shooting circle’ – an arc in front of each goal.

Athlete to watch: Australia striker Jamie Dwyer has scored more than 150 goals for his country and been voted World Player of the Year in three of the past four seasons. He’s good is what we’re saying.

Not to be confused with: What Americans and Canadians call ‘hockey'.

As seen in: ‘Chak De! India’ (2007), a hugely successful Bollywood movie about the fictitious adventures of the Indian women’s hockey team.

Do say: 'It's all about the triangles.'

Don't say: 'This is just a load of dudes bending over, which I'm totally fine with – lots of my friends are hockey players.'

British Olympic hopeful - Richard 'Ratman' Alexander

What would your advice be to someone taking up your career?

If you want to get into it for the money and fame then go and play a sport like football. You play hockey for the pride of being able to compete for your nation, and that's it.

What's your favourite London spot or guilty pleasure?

I love Chinatown and real ale. In terms of a guilty pleasure, it's usually Raffles or Mahiki.

Who’s your Olympics crush?

I originally thought Fatima Whitbread, but it’s actually Zara Phillips, because I love the royals.

What goes through your head while competing? Do you have any superstitions or mental tricks?

I do have quite a lot of superstitions. I think I’ve got a little bit of OCD, maybe because I’m a Virgo. I always put my left shoe on first and my left shin pad in first. And if I'm not playing well, I'll put my gumshield in another pocket, so it means I can start afresh.

What is the most common misconception about your sport?

People think it’s a bit of a girls’ sport, but if you speak to any of the rugby players who watch us play, they say they wouldn’t go out on the pitch. The ball flies round at 100 miles an hour – when you see some of the body positions we get into trying to hit the ball, you wonder how we don’t get more injured.