| 15.5°C Belfast

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh: 'It's been really lovely to see our daughter growing every day'

Olympic gold medal winning hockey players Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh tell Lisa Salmon how their baby daughter makes a team of three


Kate (left) and Helen Richardson-Walsh

Kate (left) and Helen Richardson-Walsh

Press Association Images

The pair at Buckingham Palace, London, where Kate received an OBE and Helen an MBE

The pair at Buckingham Palace, London, where Kate received an OBE and Helen an MBE

Press Association Images

Kate (left) and Helen Richardson-Walsh

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh desperately miss being part of a team - especially a team so amazing that it won an Olympic Gold medal. But the former hockey players, who became the first same-sex married couple to win an Olympic gold medal together when their GB team won hockey gold at the 2016 Rio Games, have now created their own equally amazing team of three, thanks to their new baby girl.

Helen gave birth to their daughter, Pfeiffer, on New Year's Eve 2019, and the baby was just three months old when the country went into lockdown and her two mummies became her only human contact.

"Lockdown has been mostly positive," admits Helen (38). "I think the negative is that Pfeiffer thinks there's only two people in her whole world."

"There is!" laughs Kate, who says both of them are finding motherhood "amazing", despite the pandemic.

"Lockdown brought its challenges, but if we're honest, it's been really nice being able to spend time as a three together, which we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. It's been really lovely to see Pfeiffer growing every day. She's on the move, commando crawling across the floor at the moment -she's pretty speedy.

"Thankfully, she's sleeping really well - lockdown helped with that because we were able to have a routine which never got messed up. Some people say some babies sleep better than others naturally, and it could be that's the case with her, but we did get into a routine almost immediately."

The pair, who were also the first married British couple to win gold together since 1920, admit lockdown stopped them fully sharing the joy of their baby with family and friends. "It's been really tough, particularly on my side, as Pfeiffer's my mum and dad's first grandchild," says Kate (40). "But nearly everybody got to see Pfeiffer just before lockdown, so that was good."

Helen says it's been hard not to see her mum, as she's on her own, but adds: "Thankfully, we've seen both of our mums since things eased a bit, which has been lovely. We were very cautious though, as all of our grandparents need to look after their health and we were very conscious of that.

"Naturally there's a worry, for Pfeiffer, our parents, siblings, everyone. We were cautious, and we took all the precautions we were asked to, and probably a few more as well."

While it may seem a strange admission for an Olympic gold medal-winning athlete, Helen says lockdown has actually helped her get fit. "I'm grateful for lockdown, " she says, "because I started the Couch to 5K. It may sound a bit strange for an Olympic gold medallist having to do Couch to 5K, but I used to love hockey and chasing the ball round the hockey pitch, but not necessarily running for running's sake.

"Obviously after having Pfeiffer I wasn't feeling in the best shape physically, and mentally as well, so I thought I'd give myself that challenge, and I put it out on Instagram as well, to make myself accountable.

"As always, I got loads of support from people, and I built it up slowly and gradually, and now I'm running three times a week and I have been doing for 16 or 17 weeks."

Not wishing to be outdone by her wife, Kate took up running as well. "I was doing circuits or yoga, but Helen's inspired me to start running again," she says.

"When you've been made to do, or you need to do, running sessions that are very painful as an athlete, you don't necessarily want to repeat that when you've stopped -well, we didn't anyway. Now we can run for pleasure rather than speed or distance - it's actually been nice."

What's also nice, they say, is remaining in touch with many of the medal-winning GB hockey team, through the team WhatsApp group, and meeting up in person when it's possible again.

"Some of our best friends are in the team, because we spent so much time with them," says Kate.

"If there was one thing I'd say I missed, it would be being part of a team," admits Helen. "Both of us coach now, and yes, you're part of something, but it's not quite the same, particularly when it was for England and Great Britain. It's your country, and we did something amazing as well. In order to produce that, we created something really, really special to be a part of, and that's the thing I definitely miss."

Kate adds: "And that's why it's nice to keep in touch, because when you see each other, you're back in that moment and you feel like you belong again. That's the joy of it - it's that sense of belonging when we see each other, it's really special."

Although she's barely seven months old, little Pfeiffer already has her own hockey stick, kindly donated by Helen's sponsors.

However, Helen says her daughter can be whatever she wants to be, and Kate adds: "We love sport, but to be honest, as long as we help her have lots of opportunities to try lots of different things and just find whatever it is she likes, if she doesn't like sport then she doesn't like sport. It's just to be passionate about something, and having the freedom to find that passion."

Helen and Kate are taking part in the Airbnb, International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee Online Experiences (airbnb.co.uk/s/experiences/online), where fans can interact with and learn from their sports idols from home. Kate and Helen's Online Experience focuses on their 'Super Strengths' and how they used theirs to flourish.

After an initial five-day 'festival' connecting fans who book an Online Experience through Airbnb with athletes from over 20 countries, many athletes will continue to host Experiences throughout the coming months. Others taking part include three-time world champion American sprinter Allyson Felix, Russian-American Paralympic wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, and British former judo world champion Neil Adams.

Kate says: "For some people it may be their one-time opportunity to talk to Olympic gold medallists, so why not ask whatever it is you want to know?"

Belfast Telegraph