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 Hockey Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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