Tears, corporate speaking, coaching: Great Britain's Olympic gold medal-winning skipper Kate Richardson-Walsh talks post-Rio retirement

Ross McLean
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Around the Games - Olympics: Day 16
Kate Richardson-Walsh has featured at four Olympic Games (Source: Getty)

As admin to the squad’s WhatsApp groups, Kate Richardson-Walsh can decide if and when she disappears into the background, but Great Britain’s Olympic gold medal-winning skipper knows that international retirement leaves voids that will eventually need filling.

Bringing the curtain down on a 17-year international hockey career by leading her nation to victory over reigning world and Olympic champions the Netherlands in Rio de Janeiro last month was the ideal swansong.

Yet when the last specks of dust finally settle the 36-year-old Mancunian is prepared for tears; it’s all she’s known for so long. In the immediacy, Richardson-Walsh will pursue a domestic hockey career, coincidentally in Holland, with wife and Great Britain team-mate Helen.

Thoughts have, however, started to flicker towards the longer-term. During her time as an intern at professional services giant EY, Richardson-Walsh dipped her toe into corporate speaking, talking at BNY Mellon also, something she may revisit in future.

“Standing in front of a group that you’ve never met before, trying to relay your message, gets the nerves and adrenaline going, similar to the hockey field,” Richardson-Walsh told City A.M.

“Teams absolutely fascinate me; how you get a group of people with completely different mindsets and personalities to come together towards one goal.

“Everybody wants to get ahead, wants a promotion, wants a bonus and it’s similar in a hockey team but that never comes first, the team goals always come first and it’s how you get people to view it in that way.

“If they do their jobs for the good of the team they will inevitably succeed and get their reward.

“Honest communication is the other thing. In terms of the hockey team, we really open ourselves up and become quite vulnerable to one another but that vulnerability is the thing that binds up.

“It’s a different environment in the corporate world and an office, but I still think there is an element of that which crosses over.”

Corporate speaking is just one potential avenue. Richardson-Walsh is a veteran of four Olympics and has not ruled out a coaching role within the Team GB set-up at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

“I would love to. I just don’t know if that’s too soon,” added Richardson-Walsh. “As a hockey player I’ve gained confidence over the years having done it for so long. As a coach, I almost feel like I’m starting at the bottom again.

“I need to build my confidence up and not shy away from saying ‘yeah, why not in four years time?’ It’s certainly a goal of mine. I’d like to feel I could give something to the team in four years’ time.”

The die certainly seems cast for the former Reading defender, who had intended to call time on her international career after the 2014 Commonwealth Games, during which England tantalisingly missed out on gold and had to settle for silver.

She opted to return to national service and, in Rio, was granted the perfect valediction, admitting that conversations between team-mates in the aftermath have started: ‘Hello, Olympic champion’.

But like Team GB generally, who recorded their most successful ever overseas Olympic medal haul in South America, Richardson-Walsh has urged her ex-colleagues to pioneer the building of a dynasty.

“One of the hardest things in sport is for teams to have back-to-back success, longevity and be able to reinvent themselves to ensure they’re always at the forefront,” added Richardson-Walsh.

“The Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers of old in basketball, Manchester United, the San Francisco 49ers and the All Blacks are prime examples. That’s what I hope the Great Britain women’s hockey team are looking forward to doing now.”