The Circle

Kate Richardson-Walsh

Former England Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh reflects on bringing the team from the shadows of international hockey to becoming Olympic Champions

The Circle is presented by Ash Nelson

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Kate Richardson-Walsh, OBE, has recently retired from international hockey as the most capped player for England with 375 appearances. With Olympic gold and bronze medal from four Olympic Games, Kate has been a part of England’s resurgence after failing to qualify for the Athens Games to becoming Olympic Champions in Rio. During the span of her career, during which she captained England and Great Britain for 13 years, she has seen many changes to the team and its leadership. And she has faced her own personal challenges too when she and her wife, Helen Richardson-Walsh, also an England hockey player, revealed their relationship. Kate shares a candid account of the highs and lows of her career with Ash Nelson.

It was strange because we were just two people who were in love and we didn’t see what the fuss was about to be honest

Kate explains what is was like being on the team with her partner Helen who was to become her wife and being in the public eye:

“You’re so close as a team, and especially at an Olympic Games – it’s like 24 hours a day you’re in each other’s pockets all the time. You really understand each other and see each other at your best and at your worst  and I think some of the girls thought something was going on but they weren’t sure because everyone has their close friends in the team they’d spend the majority of time with, it might be there roomy or someone in their apartment but I think some of the girls that we’d known for over ten years I think they thought something was going on and I think for them that was the most unnerving thing. It was the not knowing, it was the guessing and the insinuation and the conversations that were going on around it. I think once they knew; some of the girls came and asked us at the end of the game, and we said yeah.

“I think for that point on it was great and we talked about it really openly in the team because we never ever wanted it to be an issue. And I think from that point on —the Beijing Olympics were kind of difficult but I think from that point on it was good and Danny [Kerry] was brilliant, and Danny’s staff was brilliant in making sure that it wasn’t a problem so when we were at work we were Helen and Kate, separate people, we were just there to be the best players that we could be. And when we were away from that we were a couple and we were really firm on that even to the point to the detriment to our relationship in that we just kept the Helen and Kate hockey caps on but at home and find it kind of difficult to slip back into the relationship behaviors and stuff but the team and the team and staff were absolutely amazing from start to finish and yeah we’ve had to deal with questions and things from journalists and media. Particularly when we got married.

“It was strange because we were just two people who were in love and we didn’t see what the fuss was about to be honest but at the same time we know that we’re very lucky that we have families who are very supportive of us and they’re happy that we’re together and they don’t have any problems with our relationship and they just want us to be happy and we have friends that support us but we know that there’re hundreds and thousands of people out there who aren’t in that situation who can’t tell their family, who struggle to tell their friends, who aren’t comfortable in their own skin. 

“And so it’s really hard whilst we do want to go out there and be like big massive promotion pushing it in your face kind of thing we do want people, LBG people to see that hey there’s two sportswomen there that are married and who cares. Some people and the girls are married to men and some are married to women and everything’s normal…what is normal.

“Generally the hockey community is very accepting and understanding of difference…we’re all different so whether it’s your religion or your sexuality or your background or whatever it might be I think you have to accept in the team that you’re all different.  And hockey is great for that and there’s been that positive side. Some saying thank you for being yourselves and of course there’s been the horrible side because you can’t have Ying without Yang. I’ve had some horrible hate mail, letters and Twitter trolls and stuff like that. It hurts when you initially get it but then you just have to say, well you can’t please everyone, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.”

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