Few British sports fans will forget the euthorium surrounding Team GB's women's hockey team this year, as the ladies in red stole the spotlight with a number of determined and thrilling performances in Rio. Yet one lady was awarded a large proportion of the glory as her desire and leadership took the team all the way to gold.
Most capped British hockey player
Kate Richardson-Walsh had already captured the hearts of many hockey fans after helping Team GB to bronze at the London Olympics in 2012, despite picking up a broken jaw during that tournament. Such a work ethic has allowed the Team GB captain to be a regular in the international set-up. In a remarkable year, Richardson-Walsh became the most capped female hockey player in the country, amassing 375 appearances across her established career.
She brought all of the assets that have helped her through her profession to the table in Rio, leading her team by example in a thrilling competition in Brazil. Going into the Games, many predicted a possible medal, although a gold was looking unlikely. Yet Richardson-Walsh's girls sent a message to the rest of the World as they compiled an unbeaten Group stage run of five wins, seeing off the dangerous Australia and USA in the process. The dogged determination of the British defensive player ensured Team GB conceded just four goals in that process.
An unbeaten run sees Richardson-Walsh lead her nation to gold
After defeating Spain 3-1 in the quarter-finals, Team GB faced the mighty New Zealand team. Fans and pundits alike gave the girls in red very little hope but the spirit and determination that had spread from the captain ensured that the team itself had very different ideas. Richardson-Walsh was at the centre of another incredible defensive display, in a performance that underlined all the qualities she possesses. As the game wore on and the Kiwis failed to score, Richardson-Walsh was beginning to put together one of her best ever performances. Team GB ended up running out 3-0 winners, with wife of Kate, Helen, grabbing a goal in the process. History had been made with the British girls reaching their first ever Olympic Games final.
They faced a solid Netherlands outfit as a memorable match unravelled. The pendulum swung from one side to another, but Richardson-Walsh's leadership helped keep Team GB in the contest at 3-3 and force a penalty shootout for gold. Kate had been the pivot at the centre of an incredible Olympic Games and the stage was set for wife Helen to grab the headlines as she converted the winning penalty. Not only did it provide Britain with a maiden women's hockey gold but also ensured Kate and Helen were the first same sex gold medalists in history.
"I'm so proud to be named alongside such incredible athletes"
Kate Richardon-Walsh's determination and attitude provided the elements required to become an Olympic hero and she was rewarded with the honour of becoming Team GB's flag bearer for the closing ceremony. A remarkable year then saw the icing on the cake as she was nominated for Sports Personality of the Year, following her retirement from the sport after reaching the pinnacle.
Richardson-Walsh admitted "it’s such an honour to be shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year. In a year when we have seen so many sporting highlights I’m so proud to be named alongside such incredible athletes and to be able to fly the flag for hockey and women’s team sport". The lady who laughs in the face of adversity is one not to be written off at the annual event on Saturday.