GB’s golden girls get the Royal seal of approval
Rod Gilmour caught up with Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh after their date at the Palace
The Scots Guards played Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual to the hundreds of tourists outside Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s changing of the guard last Friday. Inside it was business as usual for Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh.
Another landmark visit – their fourth – to the Royal residence saw Kate, 36, and Helen, 35, receive an OBE and MBE respectively at the investiture ceremony as hockey once again shone in the limelight.
This time it came as the first days of spring took hold. “It’s been the best day and to be here together too,” Kate told The Hockey Paper. “It would have been nice to have the whole squad here but I think we are a bit too rowdy and that’s why they split us up!”
Standing beside her was wife, Helen, and full of emotion too. “Every time we come to the Palace it is incredible,” she admitted. “It is an amazing feeling. Everyone here is so welcoming and are there to make you feel at ease. To be here with our family for the first time is so special.”
The couple received their medals from Prince Charles, who probably didn’t need to be prompted as to their presence at the ceremony.
“Prince Charles asked if I was still playing and why I wasn’t playing internationally anymore,” revealed Kate. “He used to play and I said that I would have to get him back out on the hockey pitch. He started laughing but I said ‘we definitely can, we can get you out at Bisham Abbey!’”
When the GB women’s squad memorably visited the Palace following Rio gold, Helen remarked that “pretty much the whole Royal Family came by, which has never happened before”.
With hockey now in both the public and Royal consciousness, Helen and Kate have had little down time of late. Last week they were at the Laureus Awards in Monaco, an evening which resonated with Kate.
The former GB captain used to work for Laureus and the Sport for Good Foundation, which included working on the red carpet in 2007. “To actually then walk down the red carpet was a great experience,” said Kate.
Two years ago, Kate was awarded the MBE at Windsor Castle alongside OBE-honoured Maggie Souyave, who handed her a first cap back in 1999. Kate’s mother, Barbara, was present at Buckingham Palace on Friday and was also there in Ireland for her daughter’s first cap 17 years ago.
“Kate always talks about the time Maggie asked her the question aged 18 of what she wanted to get out of her hockey,” said Barbara. “Kate said she hadn’t thought of that before. Maggie said it wasn’t all about playing for England, it’s about thinking bigger than that.
“Even then Maggie knew that something special would happen and she has fulfilled that dream.”
The couple will now set their sights on keeping bottom side Bloemendaal ladies in Holland’s top flight Hoofdklasse league.
Helen said: “We need to do a job to stay in the league and our trip to Argentina (for warm weather training) has really helped with the team dynamic. It will be tough, the group is so young and we will be fighting hard to keep them in the division – that’s what we always do.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the GB women’s squad will be handed MBEs at separate ceremonies in the coming weeks.
Honoured: The Prince of Wales congratulates Helen on being awarded an MBE, left, and presents wife Kate with her OBE, right
Proud moment: Helen, left, and Kate Richardson-Walsh show off their MBE and OBE at Buckingham Palace PICTURE: PA Images