Helen Richardson (right) has been chosen as Great Britain Hockey’s 2010 BOA Athlete of the Year.
The award is presented to the British athlete deemed to have been the top performing athlete of year and is selected by Great Britain Hockey on behalf of the British Olympic Association. Richardson has been recognised for delivering exceptional performances on the field of play in 2010 and for demonstrating the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect.
29-year-old Richardson has been one of a number of stand-out performers for both Great Britain and England this year. After playing for Great Britain in a series of test matches against hockey giants Australia, Germany and China, Richardson played a pivotal role in helping the England Hockey women to an unprecedented summer of success that culminated in three bronze medals.
In a busy international year, the Hertfordshire-born, Nottinghamshire-bred midfielder has added goal scoring to her well respected talents. Having found the back of the goal 12 times in her previous ten years of playing international hockey, central midfielder Richardson scored seven times in 2010. Three goals on home turf in Nottingham in July, including two against Germany, helped England to a first Champions Trophy medal while her four goals in September’s World Cup in Argentina were critical as England stepped onto the podium for the first time at a World Cup. Richardson was also a member of the England squad that completed the bronze medal hat-trick with third place at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.
Helen Richardson said: “It truly is a great honour to receive this award and I really must thank everyone who has helped me throughout my career. I am so proud to play for my country and have enjoyed many fantastic moments over the past 12 years. 2010 has been a successful and promising year for the England team and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of a GB squad, with the backing of the British Olympic Association, which has the desire, ambition and ability to achieve great things. There are exciting times ahead; especially looking towards the London Olympics in 2012 and the whole squad is relishing this unique opportunity.”
Danny Kerry, Great Britain and England Hockey women’s Head Coach, said: “I am delighted for Helen on many levels. She has consistently delivered in every single major tournament for which she has been selected. This year the greater flexibility in her role has led to more goal-scoring and thus now a greater interest in her too. Helen has always shown the real differentiating qualities of resilience, competitiveness and drive and I am pleased that this has been formally recognised with such a prestigious award.”
One of the longest serving members of the current squad and the second most capped, Richardson has her heart set on playing in a third Olympic Games at London 2012. Having made her senior international debut aged 17 in a 3-0 win over Japan in July 1999, an 18-year-old Richardson became the youngest female hockey player to represent Great Britain at an Olympic Games when she went to Sydney in 2000 – a record that she held until teammate Charlotte Craddock was selected to compete in Beijing in 2008.
Since then Richardson has gone on to win 63 caps for Great Britain and 135 for England, scoring three times for GB and 19 for England. Her summer of success with England means she has now won a World Cup bronze medal, four European Championship bronze medals, Champions Trophy bronze, a Commonwealth Games silver medal and two bronze medals, and Champions Challenge gold and bronze.
Such achievements have previously been recognised with Richardson being named in the International Hockey Federation’s 2009 World Team of the Year and shortlisted for the World Player of the Year Award in the same year. In February 2010, she was honoured by the Hockey Writers’ Club, who made her their Player of the Year.
Having played for West Bridgford and Sherwood hockey clubs when younger, Richardson enjoyed considerable domestic success with Leicester before moving to the Netherlands for a season following the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to play for Den Bosch in the Dutch premier division. The she won the European Club Champions Cup, hockey’s equivalent of football’s Champions League. She now plays her club hockey for Reading in the England Hockey League Women’s Premier Division.
The previous winners of the award are Crista Cullen (2006), Kate Walsh (2007), Alistair McGregor (2008) and Barry Middleton (2009).
Helen Richardson’s Profile
Date of birth: 23 September 1981
Place of birth: Hitchin, Hertfordshire
Shirt number: 8
Caps (goals): Great Britain 63 (3); England 135 (19)
Current club: Reading
Former clubs: West Bridgford, Sherwood, Leicester, Den Bosch (NED)
Schools: West Bridgford School and South Nottingham College
Senior international debut: 21 July 1999
No. of major international medals: 1 World Cup bronze, 4 European bronze, 1 Champions Trophy bronze, 1 Commonwealth Games silver, 2 Commonwealth Games bronze, 1 Champions Challenge gold, 1 Champions Challenge bronze
No. of major international tournaments: 2 Olympic Games, 3 World Cups, 4 European Championships, 2 Champions Trophy, 3 Commonwealth Games, 3 Champions Challenge
Major domestic titles and medals: 4 England Hockey League Premier Division titles with Leicester (2000-2001, 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007), 2 Women’s Cup titles with Leicester (2004-2005, 2007-2008), 1 EuroHockey Club Champions Cup title with Den Bosch (2008-2009), 1 EuroHockey Club Champions Cup silver medal with Leicester (2006-2007), 1 EuroHockey Club Cup Winners Cup silver medal with Leicester (2000-2001) and 1 EuroHockey Club Cup Winners Cup bronze medal with Leicester (2005-2006).
Source: Great Britain Hockey
Picture: Helen Richardson with the World Cup bronze she won with England in Argentina this year