We were honoured to welcome double Olympic medal winner, GB Hockey player, and Old Oakhamian (03), Crista Cullen MBE back to Oakham School to officially open our new hockey astro.
“Crista is one of Great Britain’s best hockey players, so we are incredibly proud to be able to name our new hockey pitch in her honour,” says Director of Sport, Iain Simpson.
During the opening ceremony, Iain described how Crista’s GB team didn’t just want to win gold at the Olympics, they had an even bigger goal – to inspire a generation to get on, or back onto, the hockey pitch. “Whilst there is no question that the team certainly fulfilled this legacy, Crista will now also, thanks to our new pitch being named after her, ignite a fire in the aspirations of future generations of Oakhamians.”
Crista said, “I’m hugely humbled to have a pitch named after me” and “it is an honour to be able to come back to my School, which gave me the attributes to be able to succeed.” The qualities that Crista specifically mentioned were the confidence she gained to be able to put herself forward, her ability to juggle the incredible demands on her time (working and training full time), and being resilient to be able to turn her failures into success. She stated that, “Oakham School gave me the cornerstones and the edge.”
Before the official opening, Crista led a coaching session with our Lower School hockey teams. The girls thoroughly enjoyed learning from the Olympian, benefiting from all of her skills and sporting wisdom. She took them through a series of practices, including how to do the Drag Flick for which she is renowned. They were thrilled to be able to chat to Crista, to have their hockey sticks signed and to be able to hold her Gold medal!
She also spent an hour in a Q&A session with Oakham’s Middle School Sports Scholars. She outlined her path to Olympic Gold, from joining Oakham. She described it as a “long old journey”, and that “it took 16 years to get the gold medal around my neck”. It was an incredibly inspiring and useful session for the Sports Scholars, many of whom are facing similar challenges to those Crista experienced. They were intrigued to know about her time at Oakham – what other sports she took part in, what her hobbies were, and how she balanced her academic work with all of her training. All pertinent questions that they, as sporting scholars who have the potential to work towards representing their country in their respective sports, were keen to learn the answers to.
The day culminated in an ‘All Stars’ hockey match where Crista captained a specially selected OO squad against a team of current students in the first match of its kind to be held at Oakham. To read more about the match – click here.
Our sincerest thanks go to Crista for spending the day at Oakham when she is so incredibly busy, not only with her continued work in the Hockey world, but with her charity work - The Tofauti Foundation, which aims to make a real difference to the people and wildlife of Africa. Crista is returning to Rutland on 2 November to give a talk at the Rutland Showground about Africa, Conservation and how winning Olympic Gold led to ‘Being the Difference’. For more information and to buy tickets (where all proceeds are donated to The Tofauti Foundation) visit the Rutland Showground website.