Prestigious SJA award for Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh

KRW HRW National Lottery prize SJA Awards 2017
England and Great Britain hockey players past and present took the limelight at the annual Sports Journalist’s Association (SJA) British Sports Awards held at the Tower of London on Wednesday 6 December. 

And it was clear from the attention the players received that next year’s Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup is already starting to create a buzz among the British sports media.

Just one year ago the team - represented by Alex Danson, Shona McCallin and Nicola White - collected the SJA Team of the Year Award. This year it was the turn of Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh to steal the show as they received the National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award.

“Candid, brave, bold and proud,” was how Jan Paterson – chief executive of the British Olympic Foundation – eulogised the Olympic gold medalists as they picked up their prize. She then continued to describe the pair as two women who have become inspirational figures, not just through their sporting achievements but also through their determination to stand up and talk openly about same sex relationships and mental health.

Collecting the award, Helen highlighted the impact and importance of funding, saying: “If it wasn’t for the National Lottery, we would not be stood here today as gold medallists. We are true National Lottery babies, we got into the squad in 1999 and we really benefited from that for the 17 years that we were elite hockey players.”

Kate added that the reception the entire gold-medal winning team has received since they returned to the UK from Rio has been incredible. “We did it as a team and I think that is what everyone picked up on – that squad of 31 women and the incredible staff,” she said.

“We all take the job of being role models very seriously and I know that the team going forward is doing exactly that.”

Talking about gender and sexuality in sport, she added: “We feel very fortunate to have grown up in a sport where we feel comfortable in our own skin and we feel supported by our team mates and our families but we also know that not everyone is as lucky as we are. We feel everyone should have the ability to feel comfortable in their own skin and be the best versions of themselves that they can and achieve what they want to achieve.”

Current captain Danson made a mad dash across the capital from a previous engagement to see her former team-mates receive their awards, while Giselle Ansley and Sarah Haycroft were among many elite athletes who also attended the awards.

The Surbiton, England and GB pair spoke to Faye Carruthers about the impact a vociferous and supportive crowd would have upon the team at next year’s Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup. 

“We heard Gordon Banks speak earlier about how special it is to play in your home country in a World Cup,” said Sarah. “And that is going to be so true when the World Cup comes to London on the Olympic Park next year.”

Giselle then added: “I know it is a cliché but a home crowd really is your twelfth player.”