23rd June 2018: What better day than Olympic Day for the EHF to announce Helen Richardson Walsh and Juan Andres de Koning as ParaHockey Ambassadors.
Carola Meyer, speaking at the launch said “ParaHockey is very dear to my heart and I have seen it grow from strength to strength over the past number of years, led by Dutch hockey who have been playing now for 25 years! For me it is wonderful to see hockey as truly inclusive sport. It really is an honour for me to announce Helen and Juan Andres as our Ambassadors for ParaHockey ID throughout Europe.”
Juan plays his hockey at Almeerse Hockey Club. He explained “My position is left midfielder. I have been playing hockey for 10 years. At school I train as a logistic assistant. My hobbies are playing hockey and watching and filming trains.”
“I have the syndrome of Costello, I am smaller than people of my age. I have difficulties to learn and until my four year I have tube feeding.”
We asked Juan why ParaHockey is so important: ” You are part of a team. Everyone with a limitation should be able to play hockey. With an adjustment or with guidance. Nobody is offside. You can made new friends and you make contact with people.”
He added that the best things is that you can “Get to know other people , you can see others clubs and countries, you can make friends and have a lot of fun”
Helen, recently retired from playing international hockey for England and Great Britain where she accumulated an incredible 293 caps. In that time she has won 2 Olympic medals, finishing her career with Gold at the Rio Olympics.
Helen is not only a fantastic hockey player but has devoted her life to being the voice for other people.
She is a mentor for Sky Sports Living for Sport, she is a patron of the Proud Lilywhites , the official LGBT association of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and she, along with her wife Kate are Ambassadors for Access Sport in England.
In 2017 we were delighted when she accepted an invitation to join the EHF’s Development Committee, where she is busy with ParaHockey and Sport for All.
We asked Helen why, following her retirement, she would devote herself to access to sport for all she said ” I always felt that I was one of the lucky ones. I had lots of support and the opportunity to play all sports, nit just hockey! Not everybody has that opportunity and that’s not right.” She added that “sport is incredible and sport gives you so much more than what you see out on the field. For me to be involved in trying to help grow ParaHockey, everyone should have the opportunity to play hockey, the game we love.”
How do you see that role “Hopefully it will get bigger and bigger. Last year in Amsterdam was the first time I’d seen what ParaHockey is really about and I know that many nations have a lot of catching up to do. We can be doing a lot more and growing awareness and myself and Kate (her wife) are heavily as we know that we can use the profile we have in the game at the moment and hopefully ply our part to grow the game across Europe.”
Her advice for ParaHockey athletes here in Barcelona (European ParaHockey event this weekend) “Enjoy it! Sometimes playing at a tournaments the pressure can build. When I look back the best part of tournaments was enjoying with your friends and team mates, having a laugh and working together as a team. Work hard – stay together.”
Helen and Juan will be working with the EHF to grow awareness of ParaHockey over the coming year in the lead up to the 2019 EuroHockey ParaHockey Championship in Antwerp in August.