IT'S BEEN quite the Olympic journey for Lithgow's Lachlan Sharp making it to the Tokyo 2020 gold medal match on Thursday evening.
But Kookaburras' quest for their first Olympic gold medal since 2004 ended with a gutting penalty-shootout loss to fellow superpower Belgium in a pulsating final.
Tom Wickham, a late addition to Australia's Olympic men's hockey squad in July, delivered a 47th-minute equaliser in the gold-medal decider.
The rivals remained locked at 1-all after a frenzied finish to regular time, with goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch proving the hero in an eventful shootout that Belgium won 3-2.
- READ MORE: Kookaburras lose Tokyo gold-medal shootout
Vanasch denied Blake Govers and Josh Simmonds then celebrated prematurely alongside teammates after Jake Whetton, taking Australia's fifth shot, failed to score.
The video umpire ruled Vanasch illegally erred, giving Whetton a chance to create a moment as iconic as Jamie Dwyer's extra-time goal that sealed the Kookaburras' gold at Athens 2004.
Despite not coming home with the gold, Sharp is a silver medalist and has his hometown bursting with pride.
His parents Richard and Tania are soaking up the reality of their son being an Olympian and bringing home a medal.
"It's a beautiful feeling, what a feeling it is, to get that far with the amount of practice matches they'd actually had, whereas the rest of the teams were playing each other all over the world, we did so well to even get to the gold medal match, so to get silver it's beautiful anyway," Tania said.
"We are just so proud to have him on the world stage representing Lithgow and our community who really got behind him and supported him all the way, it's just a lovely story," Richard said.
The Sharp clan celebrated Lachi's moment gathered around the TV with a few quiet drinks and watched him contest for a gold medal.
"The game was really even I thought, the first half Belgium had the better of the play, possession and position on the field and then in the second half the Australians came out and turned the tables on them," Richard said.
"We got some momentum, pushed forward and had a couple of really good chances there, we hit the post once and it could have been a bit of a different story."
On watching the shootout he said it was intense and exciting, unless you're involved.
"They're [shootouts] always intense, it's pretty tough on the players, it's wonderful when you win and soul-destroying when you don't," Richard said.
"My heart goes out to the guys that had to take them and to miss them in that sort of environment is always heart breaking."
Sharp is set to fly out from Tokyo on Saturday evening where he will return home to Perth and go into the required isolation before attending to some national league commitments in October.
"He'll probably get his gear and come back over here in September I hope, we're busting to see him," Richard said.
"We can't wait to see this 10 kilogram silver medal and give him a hug and a kiss," Tania said.
A huge thank you
Richard and Tania said it had been amazing watching their son at the Olympics and thanked the Lithgow community for getting behind him.
"I had all these different emotions of nerves and excitement watching Lachi's games but it's been wonderful especially knowing there's been so many people behind him," Tania said.
"We can't thank the Lithgow community enough for their support and putting out the green and gold."
- READ MORE: Hockeyroos out of Games after India loss
"Everyone's been supportive even at work from the CEO to the mine manager and everyone who works underground, constantly asking me how he's going and they're proud to just know him and be associated with him," Richard said.
"We appreciate it so much."
A special thanks also goes out to his former school Zig Zag Public for their ongoing support.
"A special thank you to the teachers and students of Zig Zag because they really have been amazing and the kids are and have been so excited for Lachi," Tania said.
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