On the shoulders of giants: stories that celebrate International Women’s Day


Five continents, five different messages, five strong and inspirational women. The FIH chose to mark this year’s International Women’s Day by inviting people from across the international hockey community to share their thoughts about the women who had supported them on their journey.

We heard the eloquent words of England and Great Britain’s super striker Alex Danson-Bennett as she recalled the people who had helped her as a young, emerging talent – her mum, her PE teacher, her first England coach and the CEO of England Hockey. And then we heard the tear-inducing comments about the athletes who had been part of the Great Britain Olympic squad but not part of the team that had played. For Alex, their support to the team was something that will stick with her forever.

Alex Danson-Bennett

The second guest speaker was member of the current Australian women’s team whose own success in the game is built partially on the greatness of the generation before her. Kaitlin Nobbs hails from hockey royalty: her mum, dad, aunt and uncle all played international hockey, and her mum was part of the Hockeyroos gold-medal winning side of 1988. Kaitlin generously credits her own success to those family influences.

Kaitlin Nobbs

Jacqueline Mwangi just makes things happen. Her mother impressed upon her that “there are no short cuts in life”, and that is the message that Mwangi has memorised as she has pursued a hockey journey that has encompassed a long career as an international player for Kenya; a place on the FIH Athletes’ Committee; a position within the Africa Hockey Federation and now, Head Coach to the national women’s team.

Jacqueline Mwangi

With humble graciousness, Jackie pays tribute to other female members of the Athletes’ Committee, perhaps not realising they may very well find her equally inspiring.

Losing your father at an early age, seeing your mother struggle through a financial crash, living in a community where sport is not readily accepted as a career choice for young women are all reasons that Neha Goyal may not have made it as an international hockey player.

Neha Goyal

The India national team player pays a heartfelt tribute to her mother and her first hockey coach for ensuring that, despite the challenges, she has been able to rise up and fulfil her potential – becoming a role model to thousands of others in the process.

The final two guests were mother and daughter duo Cherill and Ayanna McLean from Trinidad and Tobago. While it is Ayanna who will be taking her place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as an umpire, it was her mother who led the way as both an international umpire and as the first female sports reporter on the Caribbean Island. The easy chemistry between the two underlies a relationship that has given Ayanna the confidence and attitude to achieve highly in sport and the business world.

Cherill and Ayanna McLean

As an aside, but equally important to note, is the recent celebration of the first ever women’s international match between Ireland and England in 1896, 125 years ago. Played in Dublin, the match attracted 2,000 spectators and Ireland emerged 2-0 winners. Reporting at the time struck a very different tone to today’s match reporting, where all the emphasis is on the match action. The Irish Times reported: “When the teams took up their positions they made a pretty scene, the English players wearing red skirts and white bodices and caps, while their opponents were arrayed in green blouses and dresses of a similar but deeper hue, and as the colours mingled and co-mingled during the course of the match, the spectacle was quite animating, not to say charming.”

Summing up the five messages from across the week, FIH Executive Board member, Chair of the FIH Women in Sport Committee and member of the IOC Women in Sport Commission, Marijke Fleuren says: “What is a better way to celebrate the International Women’s Day than to give the floor to athletes and officials from all over the world.

“Each of them has a story to tell. About how they enjoy their sport, and about the women who have been their support and inspiration along the way.

“For sure they will share who were their female role models and, through their achievements, behaviour and now their words, they will inspire the next generations of girls and boys to see that in hockey we are Equally Amazing!”

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