“When I looked at that medal on the podium I thought back to being a little girl. To when I thought that this wasn’t for me. This was something that happened to other people. It was a little nod to that girl to say, “You did it.” All the difficult moments, the bullying at school, the doubting yourself, having no confidence, you came out of that, now you’re standing here, on top of the world.”
Kate Richardson-Walsh wells up as she delivers those words – It is a powerful, emotional statement about the culmination of a quest to win an Olympic gold medal which had taken her years of dedication to complete.
The interview is part of a series entitled “Becoming X.”
Becoming X is a company set up ‘to create a world where everyone can realise their potential.’
Richardson-Walsh is one of a number of high profile stars, including Roger Federer, Bear Grylls, Victoria Pendleton and many others, to tell the story of their road to the top.
In Richardson-Walsh’s video, which you can watch in full here, she tells of the disappointments she faced all the way through her career before finally reaching the crowning glory on that famous night in Rio.
“I remember it so clearly, a letter would be sent out and there was a list of names that were selected and my name wasn’t on the list.” She says of her omission from the England U16s squad early on in her career.
“I remember that rush of emotion, embarrassment, sadness, devastation and as a typical teenager; I locked myself in the bathroom. Eventually I came out and my mum sat me down and the only thing I remember about the conversation was her saying “What do you want to do about it Kate?”
That conversation with her mother set about a chain of events which they probably didn’t realise would lead to Richardson-Walsh winning 375 caps for her country – a record for a female player.
From that point on she says she started to ‘make better choices’ as well as ‘learning to love the discipline of training, eating well and looking after myself.’
The temptation is to imagine a sort of montage, like in an 80s film, with Richardson-Walsh hitting the gym, training hard and eating right before winning the big prize at the end of it. It may have ended that way eventually but there were certainly a few more bumps in the road to come.
“In 2003 I was made captain and in 2004 we failed to qualify for the Olympics which had never happened before. I was making history for all the wrong reasons.”
“For some of those women that was their last opportunity to go to an Olympics. I felt that sense of responsibility. The weight was on me as captain. I felt that feeling from those women and locked it away inside. I vowed to use that to drive me, to motivate me and as a learning process to make sure it never happened again.”
Fast forward to Rio 2016 and it is fair to say no one outside the Great Britain squad and their support staff could have predicted what was to come in that tournament:
8 games in 14 days, 8 wins and an Olympic gold medal.
The shy kid from Stockport had done it. The perfect ending to an incredible career – Richardson-Walsh bowed out at the very pinnacle of her sport. What a story!