Kate Richardson-Walsh: Record-breaker

Kate Richardson-Walsh waits to take to the field

What were you doing back in 1999? England and Great Britain captain Kate Richardson-Walsh was making her international debut. Few could have known back then the impact she would go on to have on British hockey. Milestone after milestone has been surpassed by Richardson-Walsh and now, one of the most recognisable and inspirational players this country has ever seen is the most capped female hockey player in Great Britain’s history.

The test match against Australia this morning takes her to 356 caps, one more than Assistant Coach Karen Brown’s total. As she embarks upon a huge year, building towards what would be her fourth Olympics, her team mates pay homage to their fearless leader.

"Kate epitomizes everything that an elite athlete should represent. Her professionalism, her fight and the way she leads the side sets her apart from the rest.” says goalkeeper Maddie Hinch. “It’s difficult to put in to words just how much of a legend she truly is! I look up to her every day. She inspires me to be better and we are blessed to have such a brilliant captain. Kate has been a consistent rock in the back line for so many years, putting her body on the line and cutting through teams with her eye of the needle passes; these are just a few things that make her the world class player she is. She thoroughly deserves this landmark and recognition."

Lily Owsley, the FIH Rising Star of 2015 echoes Hinch’s sentiments, adding:

“Kate is an unbelievable captain, player and friend. The length and success of her career is testament to the hard work she has put in and the ability to drive everyone around her. I feel so honoured and proud that I have been able to play a handful of these caps with her. She’s an absolute legend!”

There are certain phrases and recurring themes that come up whenever her team mates speak about Richardson-Walsh. Fight, drive, determination, professionalism, inspiration, world class, leader, dedication and legend are just a few of those. Her no-nonsense, never-say-die attitude as well as her almost telepathic ability to read what an attacker is about to do has made her a thorn in the side of many a striker over the years and has led to Richardson-Walsh becoming a household sporting name as well as a player synonymous with this Great Britain side.

Georgie Twigg, who picked up an Olympic bronze medal alongside Kate Richardson-Walsh in 2012, is glad to have the No11 on her side:

"Kate is such an inspirational captain and really leads by example. A true professional in the way she conducts and asserts herself in training and in matches.” she adds “She has been one of the best defenders out there in the world for a long time now and I always hate coming up against her as she manages to get a tackle in from anywhere! This is truly an incredible achievement and one she has worked so hard for, I am proud to play alongside Kate and call her my captain."

Alex Danson, made her debut two years after Richardson-Walsh, aged just 16 and has played alongside the Stockport-born defender at club and international level for many years now. Danson who has 253 caps herself is keen to emphasise that this achievement is no accident and that the captain has put in plenty of blood, sweat and tears to get there:

"Kate's extraordinary achievement reflects a life dedicated to hockey. For every cap she's earned lies hours of work and dedication. She is a very special individual that makes our team better every day. I couldn't be happier for her."

In an age of short-termism and a rapidly changing sporting climate, such longevity is hard to come by. Make no mistake, whilst there may be a moment of self-reflection as she takes in her latest achievement, there will be no let up, no going through the motions, no complacency. Richardson-Walsh will go back to training and work as hard as she always has. That is why she is the most capped British female player of all time. And that is why she inspires those around her.

Everyone at Great Britain Hockey would like to congratulate Kate Richardson-Walsh on her appearances record!   

If you'd like to share your congratulations with us on Twitter, tweet @EnglandHockey using the hashtag #KatetheGreat.