Over the past four years I have been lucky enough to meet some top athletes in the field of triathlon, cycling and running who inspire others to take up the sport. I've also been privileged to meet so many inspirational athletes at our events who are pushing themselves to meet challenges and achieve their goals. In the past couple of years, on returning to the hockey pitch after an eight year break, I've also met and played with some pretty awesome women who have achieved many hockey honours in their long careers.
However, last weekend I got the chance to meet the person who inspired me and who I consider to be an absolute legend in the sport of hockey.
Rewind to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, I watched a brilliant centre forward called Jane Sixsmith. At that time I was a teenager who lived to play hockey, I was a centre forward and after watching her play, I wanted to be Jane Sixsmith! She was so fast, so skillful and she scored some absolutely cracking goals; that was the sort of player I wanted to be for my school and club. She was a fantastic ambassador for ladies hockey and for me, it was amazing to watch her play - she made it look so effortless.
My own hockey journey over the years has been a bit stop-start through injury and family commitments but coming back to play again two years ago has given me a new lease of life! With the encouragement and support of Belper Ladies Hockey Club and the England Hockey Masters program I was able to reignite the passion I had for the sport, play like I had never played before and was given opportunities that I previously had only ever dreamed of.
Then at the start of this season I was then asked to play in a V45s National Cup game for Sutton Coldfield , the club that Jane Sixsmith has played for all her life, the very team that she would also be playing for. Of course I jumped at the chance to play - I couldn't wait, I was so nervous, a bit star struck, feeling a bit shy (and those of you who know me, that's not normal.....), and was pinching myself that I was in this position.
So, six days ago I was privileged to be part of a brilliant V45 squad playing in the quarter final of the National V45s cup. I played on the same pitch as Olympians, England Masters players and Midlands Masters players. I got to play alongside my sporting hero which was a real honour; Jane was fast, skillful, made it look effortless, scored some absolutely cracking goals, and at the very end of the match she gifted me a ball and I scored a goal - WHOOOOPPP!! Roll on the semi-finals when we get to play again.
To meet someone who has influenced your path through your chosen sport from an early age is fantastic, and it's something I never thought I would get to do. Along the way, and especially in the past year, it's been amazing to play hockey with women of similar a age to me, who are passionate about the sport, play at such a high level, and positively influence young players coming through. It goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams, you're never too old to have role models, so keep looking to those people who influence, encourage and motivate you and enjoy every minute of the time you spend participating in sport, while you still can.