It Was Very Raw - Roper On Miscarriage

Competing at an Olympics should be the highlight of any athlete’s career but for hockey player Laura Roper, this summer’s Games will come with mixed emotions.

In January, Roper discovered she was pregnant. It was not planned and, with Paris 2024 just seven months away, the timing completely threw her.

She found out about the pregnancy on the day she and the team were due to fly to Spain for the Olympic qualifying tournament, for what would be their most important games in the last three years.

“It was a bit of a shock to say the least,” she says. “I hadn't even seen my husband because he'd already gone to work. My head was all over the place.”

After receiving assurances from a doctor that she was safe to play in the matches, Roper travelled to Valencia and helped Britain qualify for yet another Games but she kept the news of her pregnancy from her team-mates.

“After the final match, I was in floods of tears,” she says.

“People thought it must be the emotion of qualifying for the Olympics but it was just everything that the two weeks away had entailed. I also realised it could be the last time I'm playing hockey.”

Afterwards, she stepped away from hockey, believing she would retire from the sport once the baby arrived. But heartbreakingly, she miscarried.

“It’s been the hardest part of my 16-year career,” the midfielder told BBC Sport in an exclusive interview.

“Until you've been through it, you don't realise actually how traumatic it is.”

Roper suffered the miscarriage at the nine-week point of her pregnancy and found it hard to process the speed with which everything had happened.

“I'd actually been for a scan that day. It was all fine and then that night, I had stomach cramps and then there was bleeding,” she explains.

“You then suddenly realise, this isn't normal.

“That morning, everything was fine, there was a heartbeat and then in just the click of your fingers, we no longer had a baby growing. I found that hard to process.”

The NHS estimates that one in every eight known pregnancies will end in miscarriage, external. Roper says the medical procedure she had to undergo after her miscarriage was something she was not prepared for. She has chosen to speak about her experience to help other athletes in a similar situation.

“You feel quite alone because no-one talks about the experience and actually what it entails. Elite athletes are used to being in control of every aspect of their body but all of a sudden your body and hormones are all over the place. It was very raw.

“I've been really honest with the team – I felt it's important to share everything because you don't realise until it happens to you how common miscarriages are.

“Heaven forbid it happens to anybody else but it if ever does, I want them to be able to come to me to speak about it. That's why I feel comfortable talking about it now.”

Following her ordeal Roper said she could not face the idea of playing hockey again. However, after working with a psychologist and taking some time to process her loss, she took the decision to return to the sport she loves and fight for a spot in the squad for this summer's Olympics.

“It was literally like starting from scratch. There were times when I was running and I was like, I'm not sure I've got this in me,” she says.

“It was a challenging time all around.”

Roper is quick to praise the support she has been given by Great Britain hockey, her head coach David Ralph and her team-mates, who she says were “there the whole time with me and just willing me on”.

Roper, 36, is already Britain's most decorated hockey player, having won Olympic bronze in 2012 and 2020, along with a memorable gold in Rio in 2016. An experienced campaigner with 350 international caps, she will travel to Paris hoping to add a fourth Olympic medal to her tally.

“Every Olympics is incredibly special. I know it's going be a tough and long journey to the medal stages,” Roper says of her chances to sign off her Olympic career with another medal.

“We won't be getting ahead of ourselves but it would be unbelievable. That's what dreams are made of.”

Medal or no medal, Roper will retire after Paris, bringing her 16-year career to an end.

“Hopefully, we get lucky after the Olympics and we can have our family then.”