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USA Olympian Kat Sharkey meets President Barrack Obama Photo: USA Field Hockey

New year honours for hockey's heroes

January 11, 2017

As Rio 2016 recedes in the distance and the excitement generated at the Deodoro Stadium becomes another part of hockey’s rich history, so the athletes who created the buzz, the drama and the inspiration find themselves honoured in their homelands.

Possibly one of the greatest moments in the lives of the players from the USA women’s team was their meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama. Spokesperson for the team, Kait Mitchell, said it was: “A moment that the players would never forget.” 

Meanwhile Craig Parnham, former Head Coach to the USA women’s hockey team, was named Coach of the Year by the USA Olympic Committee. This is the first time a 'field' hockey coach has won the title in the 20 year history of the award.

For the men's Belgian Red Lions, runners-up in the men’s final in Rio, a meeting with King Philippe and Queen Mathilde was just one of a number of events to mark their success. The Red Lions had never reached an Olympic final – they won a bronze medal in 1920 – but their rise up the rankings in recent years has been tremendous.

In a national poll to discover Belgium’s top 100 personalities of 2016, the Belgium men’s hockey team came in at number 11. They also won Team of the Year ahead of the men’s 4x400m relay team, the swimming relay team and the Belgian women’s football team.

On the other side of the world, New Zealand’s most long-serving players were also honoured in Queen Elizabeth’s New Year’s Honours List. Phil Burrows and Katie Glynn are both stepping down from the national men’s and women’s squads after years of international duty. Both receive Member of New Zealand Order of Merits (MNZM).

Burrows, the former Black Sticks captain and the team’s most capped player, represented New Zealand for 16 years before officially announcing his Black Sticks retirement in November last year.

"I was pretty taken-aback just to be nominated," said Burrows. "Hearing I was actually going to be on the list, I feel pretty privileged and honoured. I'm just a hockey player, you don't expect you get these kind of honours."

Katie Glynn announced her retirement a year earlier than Burrows after struggling with knee and back injuries.

Debuting in 2009, Glynn played 134 tests for New Zealand and scored 77 goals making her New Zealand’s second highest female goal scorer of all time.

Glynn had a stellar career competing at all the major global hockey events including the 2014 Hockey World Cup, 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, 2012 London Olympics, 2010 Hockey World Cup and 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. An enduring image of the striker is her performance at the London Olympics with her head bandaged after she left the field for stitches following an injury.

The entire Great Britain women’s hockey team, with the exception of captain Kate Richardson-Walsh, will be receiving Member of the British Empire (MBE) awards after winning gold medals in Rio.

Skipper Richardson-Walsh will however be kneeling in front of Queen Elizabeth to receive an Order of the British Empire (OBE) as she already holds the MBE.

The team were invited to Buckingham Palace, home to Queen Elizabeth II, following their Olympic success to meet members of the Royal family. This included Prince Harry who was pictured joking with midfielder Susannah Townsend after she appeared on crutches following surgery on her knee.

All of this remarkable recognition is yet further evidence of development of the sport in recent years. With the sport's drive to increase professionalism across all levels of the sport through the FIH 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy, it is expected hockey players will receive many more prestigious national and international awards over the coming years.

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