Alice and Jo Richardson-Watmore reveal what it’s like to play for England with your other half
GREAT BRITAIN hockey stars Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh made headlines at Rio 2016 for being the fi rst same-sex married couple to compete at an Olympics – but, in fact, it was two rugby players.
Alice and Jo Richardson-Watmore got married in Miami in December 2015 – more of which later – and with the women’s rugby sevens kicking off a few hours earlier than the hockey on Saturday 6 August 2016, the pair pipped their similarly-named hockey couple to the aforementioned distinction.
Not that they mind; they prefer to go under the radar and are giving Rugby World their fi rst interview. They fi rst met when representing England at U16 level but it wasn’t until 2012, when both part of the sevens set-up, that Alice asked Jo out. “We kept it secret for a while,” says Jo. “Then when I moved to London six months later, in the January before the 2013 Sevens World Cup, we told people.” Alice adds: “Most people had probably guessed by that
point. To start with a few people were worried about the effect it would have but they soon saw it didn’t change how we played.”
The reaction of current coach Simon Middleton to the fact they were a couple was perfect; he simply told them if they didn’t give him any issues then it wouldn’t be an issue. yet what is it like training and playing together? Do you worry about each other getting hurt?
“We never go down injured,” quips jo. “The fact we’re together so much means we know what each other are thinking.”
“We’re probably more honest, performance-wise,” says Alice. “If she thinks I’ve had a good or bad game, she’ll tell me right away whereas women can sometimes be more sensitive.”
Do you get angry with each other? “Sometimes,” replies Alice. “But it’s the same as with other players. In training we might have a little snap at each other. like, ‘ Pass the ball a bit earlier’. We know we can’t have a full-blown domestic, but if something is poor rugby-wise that’s a normal reaction.”
jo adds: “We’re both so passionate and very opinionated. It’s not for the sake of arguing.
“We’re also really competitive against each other when it comes to fitness or one- on- one drills.”
They both love sevens, the skills, the excitement, the unpredictable nature of the sport, and they talk of their Olympics adventure in reverential tones. This season they have been happy to lend their experience to a new, young sevens squad – a lot of last year’s team have returned to 15s ahead of the World Cup – as players find their feet on the World Series (the final round is at the end of june in France). But Tokyo 2020 is not on the agenda for the 30-year- olds.
“GB won’t be doing very well if we’re playing at the next Olympics,” laughs Alice. “We’re enjoying it and are not sure how long we’ll carry on, but there are good incentives to be playing next year with the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in San Francisco.”
Post-rugby, the couple have big plans too. They want to have two children; Alice thinks they should each carry a child but “jo thinks I’ll have both – she doesn’t want to ruin her body!” They already run Fuel Training (fueltraining.co. uk), offering personal training to groups and individuals in london, and the next step is to open their own gym. It can be tricky to juggle their rugby commitments with their business ones, but fitness is a pleasure, not a chore, for these two.
They entered a triathlon in Hampton last year for fun and have various comical tales to tell from too-small bikes to garish outfits. Another demonstration of their love of keeping fit comes when they talk about their wedding day.
They tied the knot on Miami’s South Beach at 10am on Christmas Eve 2015. It was just the two of them and they picked the early time because it would be quiet, yet they still found themselves being snapped by people walking by. Then, just two hours later, they were doing a training session.
“They kept playing Ellie Goulding songs, which I thought was a bit strange because it’s not really workout music,” recalls jo. “Then later I went on Twitter and realised she’d been in the session. That’s why they were playing her music.”
Marriage vows followed by a workout is certainly a rare mix, but they do say a couple that trains together stays together – and these two are doing that in more ways than one, at work and play.
“WE’ RE REALLY COMPETITIVE AGAINST EACH OTHER WHEN IT COMES TO FITNESS OR DRILLS”
Hockey gold Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh
Wedding belles jo and Alice in Miami, Christmas Eve 2015
Partnership Alice and jo at the Rio Olympics
Pace setter jo in action for England Sevens