THE Hockeyroos' Olympic Games medal hopes ended in tears as the young team fell agonisingly short of advancing to the next stage of the tournament yesterday morning.
But young striker Emily Smith, who hails from Crookwell, has vowed to return bigger and better in Rio in four years' time to try to erase the devastating heartbreak of their London campaign.
The Hockeyroos finished their last preliminary match with a 0-0 draw against Argentina.
They needed to win by just one goal to stay in medal contention, but instead they will play for fifth or sixth position.
Making it even harder to swallow was the fact the Hockeyroos lost just one game in the tournament and that defeat was only 1-0.
They conceded just two goals in their five games.
Smith was making her Olympic debut in London.
The side wasn't expected to be in medal contention at the beginning of the tournament, but the players grew in confidence with each game.
''It's devastating to think we worked so hard all of this time and to think we've lost with a draw … it's really disappointing,'' said Smith, who turned 20 on the first day of the Olympics. ''It happens I guess, we needed to win and we should have scored more goals but I thought we played really well.
''We gave it everything we had, we just didn't cut it this time.''
The Aussies lost their first game to New Zealand, but found form in the next round matches to show they could be medal contenders.
Ultimately missing the finals came down to an inability to create chances against Argentina.
The Hockeyroos did not secure a penalty corner during the game and pulled their goalkeeper from the field in the dying minutes to try to keep their dreams alive.
''It is a bit of a shock because everyone was so confident,'' Smith said. ''The mood was really good, we were really determined to stick it to Argentina, who are ranked No.2 in the world, but it just didn't fall our way. It's an awesome experience, I just hope in four more hard years I can get a medal or something, but I've got a lot of improving to do.''
The Hockeyroos will play China later this week in a battle for fifth and sixth place.
Chris Dutton, Canberra Times