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Spurs fan Helen's golden moment

Posted on 3 September 2015  - 15:05

Sixteen years in the making, Spurs fan and hockey great Helen Richardson-Walsh’s golden moment will live with her for the rest of her life.

Helen celebrates her goal in the shoot-out of the EuroHockey Final against the NetherlandsHelen receives her gold medal from Sophie, Countess of WessexHelen, front row, second from right, with her England team-mates as skipper Kate Richardson-Walsh lifts the trophyHelen with GB team-mate and fellow Spurs fan Chloe Rogers at the Lane with their Olympic 2012 bronze medals

Capped over 250 times by England and Great Britain, Helen, 33, was a key member of the England team that clinched EuroHockey gold at Lea Valley on Sunday.

Helen played a crucial part in the final triumph against the Netherlands, the reigning world and Olympic champions.

Trailing 2-0 with 15 minutes remaining, England took the game to a shoot-out with late goals from Sophie Bray and Lily Owsley.

The shoot-out in hockey sees players run towards goal unopposed for a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. Helen stepped up first and was fouled, so was awarded a penalty flick that she tucked away. England goalkeeper Maddie Hinch was the hero with three saves as England triumphed 3-1 to stand on top of the podium for the first time since 1991.

Below: Helen up against Netherlands goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek in the shoot-out

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The dramatic nature of the victory was fitting - not least to banish the demons of a final defeat on penalties in the same tournament two years earlier - but doesn’t tell the full story.

Helen was sidelined for 11 months after twice undergoing back surgery in April, 2013 and March, 2014 but fought her way back to fitness and finally glory over the weekend, when the Countess of Wessex draped a gold medal over her neck.

“It has been an amazing career but to have played for 16 years without winning that gold medal had been there at the back of my mind,” said Helen, who spoke to us earlier this week.

“Even at 2-0 down in the final with 15 minutes to go, we had that belief that we could come back and showed the strength and belief to do it. To finally win that gold medal, wow, it means the world to us all to be champions.

“I just knew we’d win when it went to the shoot-out but when Karen, our assistant coach, said I was up first I thought ‘oh no, I don’t really want to go first’ but I thought ‘come on, do what you know you can do’.

“I’m not going to lie, my legs were shaking! But I reminded myself of the processes we’d been through and the goalkeeper then clattered into me anyway, so I was awarded a penalty stroke. I gave it everything and to score in front of the home crowd was absolutely amazing.

“These are the moments you play for, when everything is on the line. I was pleased I was able to put it away and it will live in the memory for a very long time.”

Hitchin-born Helen, Patron of Proud Lilywhites, our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) supporters group, gives a nod to her brother (Neil) for initially leaning her towards supporting Spurs.

“When I was deciding which club to support as a young girl, he was the big influence in my decision,” she recalled. “The likes of Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne were playing for the club at the time too, so it was certainly a good time to start following them. Tottenham have always been an entertaining team to watch.

“I would love to get down to the Lane and watch more matches but it’s impossible because we play hockey matches at the weekends (Helen plays for Reading), our club season runs just about the same as the football season and because of our training, even if it all falls into place, I’m often so tired that I just need to rest!”