This year’s BBC Sports Personality Of The Year awards take place at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on Sunday. Our Hockey correspondent, Brittany Holder, takes a look at one of the the 16 candidates, Kate Richardson-Walsh.
Kate Richardson-Walsh will unfortunately be retiring from international hockey this year. However she will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest hockey players Great Britain will ever see. She got into the sport like most of us did taking up hockey at school aged 11, just like her mother before her. However she was never going to be your average school girl raised in Manchester.
Playing in the England Hockey League Premier Division for Reading Hockey Club since an early age it was clear that this women was headed towards incredible
things. She made her both her international debuts for England and Great Britain in 1999. Taking up captaincy for both sides in 2003. Her career has been like no other. She has gone on to play in every major international tournament including three Summer Olympics, winning Bronze at home in London 2012 and captaining Great Britain to Gold this summer in Rio (right).
Not only has she been successful in Olympics but also in Hockey World Cups, attending four and winning Bronze in 2010 in India. Furthermore her record at the Commonwealth games is incredible winning a medal every year since her first games in her hometown of Manchester.
If that wasn’t enough, Kate Richardson-Walsh has taken medals every year off the major hockey tournament that is the EuroHockey Nations Championships. Not only has she won hockey medals for tournaments but she has twice been the winner of the Hockey Writers Club UK Player of the Year, as well as being shortlisted for World Player of the Year in 2003 and named in 2007 Great Britain Hockey Athlete of the Year.
Her dedication to the sport is nothing like we have seen before. In the London 2012 Olympics, Richardson-Walsh was hit by a stick (left) in the teams opening match against Japan giving her a broken jaw, an injury that should have put her out for the remainder of the tournament. Her sporting moto of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ came into play here as no matter what the injury or cost she was going to get back onto that pitch in front of her home crowd to not only do her country proud, but also to lead her team to victory and that’s exactly what she did, only missing a mere two games, she was back on the pitch to do exactly that; showing she’s made of a lot harder stuff than the rest of us.
Its clear Kate Richardson-Walsh is an outstanding hockey player. But there is far more to her than just being a fantastic sports person. Her dedication to being a sporting ambassador is incredible and resulted in her being appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2015 New Year’s honours. In 2013 she was elected onto the Athletes Commission for the European Olympic Committee to ensure that athlete’s voices were being heard.
Furthermore Kate Richardson-Walsh is an ambassador for Access Sport which promotes that sport is for all and aims to transform people’s lives through sport. I’ve been lucky to have been coached by this outstanding women whilst I was at Reading Hockey Club. Her passion, enthusiasm and desire to see others improve is truly inspirational. She is not only inspirational to hockey players everywhere but also the LGBTQ sports people everywhere. Marrying fellow England and Great Britain teammate in 2013, Helen Richardson-Walsh, the pair become the first married couple since 1900 to win a gold medal in the same team when they won Gold in Rio.
What a year to end on, captaining England to victory in the EuroHockey Nations Championships as well as Gold in Rio for GB. Something myself and all hockey
players will never forget, would be the image of seeing Richardson-Walsh have the honour of being the flag bearer for GB in the closing ceremony at the Olympics this year. During her 13 years captaining both England and GB women’s Hockey she’s won 19 international medals, scoring 49 international goals and being the most capped female hockey player Great Britain has ever seen with her outstanding 375 caps.
Kate Richardson-Walsh is not only a true hero through her outstanding skill, dedication and passion for her sport but also through being an inspiration for hockey players everywhere. What I am trying to say is, none of us want her to leave, but there is no better time for her to do it because she can walk away with her head held high knowing she’s done an exceptional job and there is no way anyone will be able to fill her shoes as captain, teammate or inspiration.
Does she deserve Sports Personality of the Year 2016? I think she does as not only is she fantastic on the pitch but is a true ambassador for sport off the pitch and what a way it would be to end her hockey career. Thank you Kate Richardson-Walsh for a truly incredible 17 years of international hockey.