Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh have been playing hockey together since they were teenagers, first striking up a friendship as the youngest pair in the senior England team. ‘A year later, in 2001, I was in my second year at Brunel University London sharing a house with someone else from the team. We needed another roommate so Helen moved in and we became firm friends,’ recalls Kate.
In 2016, hockey players Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh were the first same-sex married couple to win an Olympic gold medal.
"Winning an Olympic medal is an experience that’s so unique, it’s nice to be able to share it with someone who knows exactly what it took to get there."
Eight years after that, they became closer. ‘It hit us both out of nowhere; we saw each other in a different light. It was amazing, quite confusing and challenging all at the same time because we were teammates and a couple,’ she continues. ‘When we started having a relationship, it wasn’t really spoken about beyond the hockey world. We talked about it with the team and the coaches but other than that, our life remained private until we got married in 2013.’
The couple were already trailblazers on the pitch, winning bronze at London 2012 – Team GB’s first Olympic hockey medal in two decades (Kate was a defender, and the captain, Helen, a midfield sensation) – and then gold in Rio 2016. ‘Winning an Olympic medal is an experience that’s so unique, it’s nice to be able to share it with someone who knows exactly what it took to get there,’ says Kate. After Rio, they avoided the post-Olympic blues with a holiday to Japan, New Zealand and Canada. ‘We love travelling and for us the hotel is key; we do genuinely love the luxury of staying in hotels,’ says Helen. ‘It’s a chance to put our phones down and really be in each other’s company.’
The pair now give talks to organisations on subjects such as culture and leadership, alongside hockey coaching roles – Kate at Hampstead and Westminster; Helen at Cambridge City – so they spend less time together than they used to. ‘The majority of our work is on our own so we make time for each other,’ continues Helen. For them, shared values are a fundamental part of the relationship. ‘Our personalities complement each other really well,’ concludes Kate. ‘For instance, sometimes I’ll be more confident in a situation, other times its Helen. We just make it work.’
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