Helen Richardson-Walsh MBE

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Helen Richardson-Walsh was a key part of the Great Britain and England hockey teams for over 15 years. She was a member of the team that dramatically won gold in the Rio Olympics, converting the winning penalty in the final.

Having started her international career at the age of 16, Helen became the youngest woman ever to represent Britain in Olympic hockey and went on to be rated one of the best players in the world. She played in five Olympics, but after her fourth, where the team took bronze at London 2012, her career almost ended. Suffering two back injuries in less than a year, consultants warned that it was unlikely she would ever play competitively again.

Spending two years out of the game, including missing a World Cup in which the team struggled, Helen felt her chances may have gone. However, rather than give up, she redoubled her determination physically and mentally. She returned to fitness, and to international competition, embodying the resolve and focus that would become a guiding value of the team.

With renewed purpose, a new leadership structure and a shared vision, and despite a difficult route, the British team reached the Rio Olympics final to face the much-fancied Dutch side. Helen was one of only two players to score during a tense penalty shootout which saw them win Britain’s first gold in women’s hockey.

Helen considers many of the lessons in team spirit, collective and individual responsibility from her time in sport. As a psychology student she also looks at what she and the team needed to do to believe in themselves, overcome defeat, and dedicate themselves to winning at the highest level. She also speaks about her personal experiences, from overcoming her injury to thriving under the pressure of taking a gold-winning penalty.