Ellen White remembers the moment it began, her love affair with the Olympics.
“Kelly Holmes coming from behind down the stairs home straight to win the 800 metres in Athens,” she says. “It still gives me goosebumps now.”
That was 17 years ago. Ninety-five caps and 39 England goals later the buzz she felt in front of her telly that day lives on.
White is in Sapporo, on the north island of Hokkaido, where in the early hours of tomorrow, UK time, Britain’s women footballers bring the curtain up on Japan’s Olympics.
In the stadium where David Beckham’s penalty beat Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, the Covid fears consuming these Games will be momentarily forgotten as Hege Riise’s team take on Chile.
“To be a part of Team GB, potentially making some amazing history, is a special privilege and one none of us are taking for granted,” said White.
“I’m an absolute fan of the Olympics, of every sport. I get so invested in it, swept away with watching sports you wouldn’t normally watch, inspired by the stories.”
This time the tale she is most interested in has her written into the lead role. Ten days after England’s Euro Final heartbreak, White has the firepower to take Team GB one step further.
“In my eyes the England team are absolute heroes for what they achieved,” she says. “They lifted the spirits of the whole nation.
“I know they didn’t win it in the end but what they did achieve and the way they conducted themselves was really inspirational.
“Certainly it’s given me inspiration for our tournament. We’re excited for everyone at home to hopefully come on this journey with us.”
At the age of 32 time is running out for White to add a major international trophy to her individual accolades.
She came close in 2019, joint top scorer in the World Cup as England fell agonisingly short in the semi-finals against eventual champions USA.
And with England providing 15 of this 18-strong squad, there is strong reason for optimism over the coming days.
“Wanting to win something as a team is what drives me, gets me out of bed, pushes me in training,” said White, who scored twice as Britain beat New Zealand 3-0 in their only warm-up game.
“I’ve had a little bit of heartbreak in tournaments with England but I feel this squad could do something special.”
After opening the 12-team competition against Chile, Britain plays Japan on Saturday and Canada on Tuesday.
The top two in each of three pools, plus the two best third placed teams advance to the knockout stages.
White’s last memory of the Sapporo Dome is of making her way to school in Aylesbury to watch Beckham save the day.
“We watched them on a big screen together in the hall,” she recalled. “It’s going to be incredible to play in that same stadium. I really can’t wait.”
Team GB (possible): Ellie Roebuck; Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Leah Williamson, Rachel Daly; Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir, Nikita Parris, Kim Little, Lauren Hemp, Ellen White.