Image of Mortar Boards being thrown in the air in celebration

Kate Richardson-Walsh

Oration

Presented by: Professor Phil Vickerman

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Kate Richardson-Walsh for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

This is a truly civic university, firmly rooted in this extraordinary city, and its defining ethos is held in three deceptively simple yet very powerful words: dream, plan, achieve.  

Each July during Graduation Week, the University's highest honour – an Honorary Fellowship – is bestowed on a select band of individuals from outside the University, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession. These people both personify and inspire others to 'dream, plan, and achieve'. 

We propose Kate Richardson-Walsh in recognition of her outstanding contribution to sport. 

Kate has captained the England and Great Britain Women's Hockey Team continuously for ten years since 2013 and has amassed a total of 321 international caps. A triple Olympian, she competed at the Sydney and Beijing Games before leading the women's hockey team to win bronze at the London 2012 Olympics. 

Kate was born in 1980 to parents who were both PE teachers – her mum Barbara now works at LJMU and is subject lead for sport, dance and outdoor education courses in the Faculty of Education, Health and Community

Unsurprisingly her parents were keen that Kate had a good grounding in a wide range of sports. While the dance classes didn't last long – much to the relief of Barbara who admits sewing costumes was a stitch too far – Kate's sporting prowess was obvious from an early age. The one sport she didn't want to play when she was very young was hockey. 

Thankfully for British sport, this all changed when Kate went to secondary school where she started to play hockey aged 11. Her rise through the ranks was meteoric and by the time she was 14 she had been selected to play for the under 16 Great Britain team. Kate was just 23 when she was made captain of the senior GB hockey team in 2003 and she has held onto the captain's armband ever since. 

Under her leadership, she has helped establish the strongest, fittest and most successful women's hockey team that Great Britain has ever produced. 

At the 2012 London Olympics they couldn't have had a better start. With just minutes to go in their first game, they were winning four nil against Japan when disaster struck. Kate's jaw had been fractured accidently. Her reaction to this serious injury could teach a few footballers a lesson or two on how to behave as she was determined to keep it from the rest of the team and she left the field holding her jaw so that they couldn't see her injury. Not only that but her first words to her mum in hospital were, "Did I win the ball?".

Kate required surgery on her jaw but just six days after she was injured, she was back on the pitch playing against China, defending as aggressively as ever. Kate then led the team to secure the second Olympic medal in their history as they went on to win Bronze.

Kate has never been comfortable in the limelight, but the terrible injury and her gutsy battle behind the scenes was one of the most remarkable stories to emerge from London 2012. Her bravery was noted by many, including Kate Middleton, also a hockey player, who sent her a personal message wishing her a speedy recovery. 

After the London Olympics, Kate was one of six Olympians elected by their peers to serve on the British Olympic Association Athletes' Commission and more recently she was elected onto the European Athletes Commission as well.  

Kate also gives regular inspirational talks on the importance of gaining the right professional skills to work within the highly competitive sports sector. During these talks she stresses that there's no magic behind her success, that she started exactly the same way as anyone else by picking up a hockey stick. What is undeniably magical is that it took just nine years for her to go from playing hockey for her school to playing for her country at the Olympic Games. 

After this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Kate has said that plans to retire from international competition, though she will continue to play and work as assistant coach to Reading's Investec League Side. 

With 321 caps, three 'best hockey player' titles from the England Hockey Writers Association, an Olympic Bronze, Commonwealth Silver and numerous other international medals, she can retire confident that her legacy is a women's hockey team poised to achieve even greater success. Furthermore her personal integrity, determination and team ethic sets the gold standard for future captains not just in hockey but in any sport.  

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present Kate Richardson-Walsh, this most distinguished Olympian and role model, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.