Team GB hockey star Crista Cullen spent two days with staff, pupils and parents at Witham Hall School to discuss her gold medal-winning exploits at the Rio Olympics.
It proved to be a memorable and inspiring time for all.
Crista, 31, was a pupil of Oakham School at the time when the current Witham Hall headmaster Charles Welch and his wife Jo were director of sport and head of girl’s games respectively.
Crista joinedMr Welch in the Stimson Hall for a parent guest night event, during which she answered questions about her international hockey career, the balance of school, university, career and international sport; and the background and ‘inside story’ to the ultimate achievement of winning Olympic gold.
Within her ‘highly-engaging and inspiring answers’, Crista paid a wonderful tribute to Mrs Welch, who she said had supported her ‘personally and unbelievably’ both on and off the field since her arrival at Oakham School, aged 13, in 1998.
She recalled the moment when Mrs Welch said to her, aged 14, ‘you have the ability to play for England’ – a belief that she noted was never forgotten in her career.
The following morning began with Crista addressing the whole school at assembly, where she outlined how, aged 5, she had set out on her path in exactly the same way as the children in front of her had done. She talked about the dedication and commitment she had given to achieving her ultimate goal, and related it to any passion the children might have.
Crista then spent the morning in the Prep School, attending classes – including taking part in a Science lesson on breathing and heart rates – meeting pupils, sharing the gold medal and signing autographs – primarily on hockey sticks. She then moved to the Pre-Prep in the afternoon where all of the children had an opportunity to meet her and see the medal.