Kate has amazing Commonwealth Games memories

Kate has amazing Commonwealth Games memoriesWith the Commonwealth Games starting to loom on the horizon in Glasgow, a former hockey player from Fishguard has fond memories of her own experiences in the 1998 Games, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – and not least of these was having tea and chatting with Her Majesty, The Queen, but more of that later!
Because then Kate Hulse, nee Thomas, was one of the most experienced members of the Welsh Hockey team, eventually playing an amazing 78 times at senior level, with a number of caps at other levels.
Kate was home for this year’s baton-changing celebration at St Davids and we were delighted to catch up with a very pleasant lady for a ‘walk down Memory Lane’

Sporting all-rounder

From her time at Fishguard High School, Kate played almost every sport under the watchful eyes of Jill Jones and then Linda Seaton but from the age of 14 decided to focus on hockey. She had originally gone along to watch her mum, Margaret Thomas, and aunt, Angela Miles, play for Fishguard Ladies and a number of the games were still played on grass so in a way made the eventual transition to artificial pitches somewhat easier. She played for school, Pembrokeshire and West Wales, always in midfield, developing her skill levels and gaining in experience.

Capped early as proof of potential

Kate was capped at under 16 and under 18 levels, with one of many highlights being selection against England at Wembley Stadium. She captained Wales at under 18 and was first chosen at under 21 level when she was just 16, as proof of her talent in the game!
Her first full cap followed in 1994 against China, when she was still only 18, as the start of a decade of hockey where Kate showed total commitment and flew the Pembrokeshire Flag with distinction. 

Family matters

Kate has amazing Commonwealth Games memoriesKate then studied Sports Science at college and met her future husband Mark, taking her Master’s Degree at Loughborough and captaining the college hockey team which had nine English internationals, one Irish international - and Kate! Her coach there was Dr Mary Neville, who had captained Great Britain, and was another major influence on Kate’s hockey.
Mark originally did research work for the Football Association and helped Peter Taylor bring along talented young players like Wayne Rooney before he moved with Taylor to Crystal Palace and gained further experience at Bolton Wanderers with Sammy Lee and Gary Megson, then with Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United, on to Liverpool and now with Manchester United. They live in Formby, in Lancashire, with children Rhys (8), who plays rugby and football, and Megan (4), who already is the proud owner of a hockey stick!

Welsh senior ‘cap’ for over a decade

Kate played for the Welsh senior hockey team for over a decade and was proud to be chosen as captain from 2002 to 2005, when she decided it was time to step down after a four-year cycle in charge of the team on the pitch. During that time there were cracking tours to places like Holland, who were preparing for the Olympics, and against teams like the USA and Australia. There was lots of travel to tournaments at venues like Barcelona, which provided terrific experience as Wales came seventh against the best teams in Europe.

Commonwealth buzz

But all that paled into insignificance in 1998 when team games were first brought into the Commonwealth Games in earnest and Kate was chosen in the Welsh team to go to Malaysia.
Since there were seven new sports, one of them being hockey, there was inevitably a buzz about the forthcoming trip for Katy and Co, the 16 players selected to represent Wales at Women's hockey.
"We had to be fitted for our red blazers and the rest of our kit," said Kate, "and there were regular training sessions to attend in Cardiff. There was inevitably concern about playing in such an exotic venue as Malaysia, not only with regard to the heat but the very high humidity so we had special training sessions in a heat chamber at the Welsh National InstItute of Sport.
"The time flew by and I will never forget the way that the heat hit you on arrival, or the magnificent opening ceremony, which it was said was comparable to the Olympic Games, with all its colour and razzmatazz.

Battling through virus

But sadly there soon turned out to be a problem for the Welsh girls in the hockey team because 8 of the 16 squad fell victim to a virus which inevitably caused disruption to their battle plans, although they did really well to fulfil every fixture.
"I was fine," Kate told us, "and really enjoyed the matches, and the amazing closing ceremony, which was even more action-packed and colourful than the opening.
"There was a great camaraderie amongst the different teams and some real stars like Gareth Thomas for Wales and Jonah Lomu (New Zealand) in the rugby. 
"Since the hockey was one of the earlier sports on the schedule we also had the chance to watch some athletics,” Kate told us, “and it was brilliant cheering Iwan Thomas on to victory in the 400 metres for Wales!"
Meeting her majesty!
"What made it even more unforgettable was the fact that the Queen was out in Kuala Lumpur and gave an official reception to one representative from every participating country - and it was Kate who was given this amazing honour for Wales!
"Hockey was chosen as the Welsh Sport to represent the entire squad, perhaps because everyone else felt a little sorry for us after the virus, and to my astonishment I was chosen, perhaps because i was the most experienced player there.
"It was quite nerve-wracking to start but Her Majesty soon made us all feel at home and she was clearly well briefed because one of the questions she asked was if my team-mates were better."
“Then there was the official closing ceremony and, if anything, it was even more colourful and enjoyable than the opening.”

And finally . . .

Kate played for Sutton Coalfield Hockey Club towards the end of her playing days and enjoyed it before looking after the children became top priority at the Hulse household in Formby, just north of Liverpool.
“Participating in the Commonwealth Games is something I will never forget,” said Kate, “and it has been nice to be home in Pembrokeshire for the baton passing in St Davids to commemorate this year’s Games in Glasgow.”
And do you know what? She is guaranteed the warmest of welcomes, especially at Fishguard Hockey Club, but also by many others who will remember Kate representing Welsh Hockey with such distinction all those years ago!