Grey January clouds loomed over the Estadio Bereto in Valencia as Great Britain held the keys to Olympic qualification with their slim 1-0 advantage over Ireland.
It had all come down to the last quarter as two huddles of red and green were awaiting its conclusion, however this epilogue had already been written by a girl from a farm in the Fifeshire countryside of Scotland
There was no linear ascent to the global stage of hockey for Katie Robertson, she rode a far-less trodden path.
Robertson’s first foray into international sporting success came in 2010, where she was part of the winning Great Britain ‘children on horses’ team at the European Championships in Paris – the city that would bookend this story.
Before making waves in the junior Scotland scene, Robertson was more familiar with breeches and blazers before a stick and ball. At Lathrisk Farm, their apples didn’t fall far from the tree as Robertson and her brother, James, both followed in the family footsteps by taking up show-jumping.
At just 14 years old, her equestrian career came to a crushing end due to a nasty accident that averted the course of Robertson’s life.
“It was a rotational fall, so the horse fell on top of me, and I was crushed between the horse and the ground…I was very lucky to only come away with a broken shoulder and collarbone and quite a bad concussion,” said Robertson.
“They thought I was going to be paralysed. It was a long recovery with being in a spinal board and neck brace, so it wasn’t very nice for my parents. I decided that I wasn’t going to get back on a horse again.”
Having played hockey in PE at Kilgraston School in the neighbouring county of Perth and Kinross, she quickly took to the sport and found a new home for her competitive nature to run wild.
As hockey strayed away from the family roots, Robertson craved a role model and there was none better on offer than former-Great Britain captain, Pauline Stott MBE who’d amazed her at first sight.
“I remember when school first announced she was coming to be a PE teacher and she came into school in her GB jacket and I looked up to her and thought ‘wow, she’s amazing’,” Robertson said.
The double Olympian was Head of Sport at Kilgraston and nurtured Robertson’s talent at the school, whilst helping her on the club scene taking her to training in Dundee when she joined Grove Menzieshill HC.
“I was able to play with Pauline regularly and I probably wouldn’t be playing hockey if it wasn’t for the school and Pauline,” Robertson added.
With the support from Stott and her family, Robertson worked her way through the Scottish junior ranks before travelling across the world to the Gold Coast for the 2018 Commonwealth Games with Scotland.
Netting in a 5-0 group stage win over Ghana as Scotland went onto finish seventh, she returned home from Australia with one thing on her mind.
Away from the pitch Robertson was juggling teaching, studying for her degree and hockey and it was all too much for the 22-year-old.
Robertson commented: “I didn’t have enough hours in the day to do what was needed. I wasn’t able to give hockey everything and my degree everything, so something had to give. I needed to focus on my career, so I had to decide that hockey was the thing that needed to go.”
Just over a year into her retirement, Robertson was sat in the stands in Glasgow cheering on Scotland at the EuroHockey Championship II which instantly sparked an itch.
“I really missed it, and I missed the girls,” Robertson said. “I wanted to get back to that team atmosphere and be back out on the pitch. In the end, I just had an eagerness and it re-lit my fire.”
Just as Robertson re-joined the Scottish programme, COVID-19 blocked her return to the dressing room, affording her a journey of personal fitness which ensured she was ready on her homecoming.
Impressing Scotland’s head coach Chris Duncan, the Commonwealth stage beckoned her again as she vice-captained the Scots to a sixth-place finish in Birmingham.
Her performances at the Games earned her a phone call from David Ralph. Robertson, who’d been granted sabbatical leave by her school, uprooted her life from the rolling slopes of middle Scotland to the home of hockey – Bisham Abbey.
From joining the squad in September, she ventured off to northern Argentina for the fifth instalment of the FIH Pro League where she’d find herself in an atmospheric hotbed.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that in my hockey career, the crowd was unbelievable,” Robertson explained.
“We were against Argentina in Argentina, so I don’t think there’s a more special place to get my first cap. It was a surreal moment and a special day for sure.”
It was a sobering first experience of the Pro League as Great Britain suffered narrow defeats to the hosts and fell short to the Olympic and World Champions, Netherlands.
The new year came, and attentions drew to the FIH Olympic Qualifiers where Great Britain eyed up a fifth-straight appearance at the Olympics.
A comfortable 2-0 victory over Canada was followed up by a close defeat to Spain but avenged with an 8-1 thumping of Malaysia to advance to the semi-finals. A loss to Belgium meant that Olympic qualification came down to a winner-takes-all contest with Ireland.
As the horn sounded around the Estadio Betero signalling the end of the third quarter, both sets of players fled into their huddles.
One final passage was to be written in this match and Katie Robertson held the quill.
46 seconds into the denouement of this tie, Robertson arrived on queue to slot home her first goal for Great Britain and cement their place in Paris.
“It’s the highlight of my career so far,” Robertson recalled. “To be part of the team that has qualified GB for Paris has been really special.
“When I got back, I went into school to see everyone, and the kids were asking me to sign their pencil cases!
“They might regret that when I’m back and they’ve got a teacher’s signature on their pencil case,” she remarked.
For Robertson, there can be no regrets. From having to turn her back on the sport in 2018, to 2024 where she’ll be full steam ahead in representing Great Britain in Paris.