Tunbridge Wells hockey player scores gold at Special Olympics

GOLD STANDARD: Ellen with her medal
GOLD STANDARD: Ellen with her medal

A YOUNG hockey player from Tunbridge Wells took home a historic gold medal with the GB Hockey Team at the Special Olympics in Berlin last month.

Ellen Greenall, 18, who plays for the Tunbridge Wells Hockey Club, was selected as one of 10 players with intellectual disabilities to represent Team GB at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games.

This year was one for the history books: it was the first-ever hockey team sent by Special Olympics GB and England Hockey, to compete in the biggest inclusive sporting event in the world.

Ellen, who has epilepsy, autism, a learning disability and is partially sighted, was one of only three girls selected for the team and played right in the action as a midfielder.

The team, which dominated the competition, won five games, bar one in the first round, and took victory during the final against Bulgaria on June 24, winning 4-2.

Ellen told the Times: “I had a great time in Berlin and loved playing hockey in the GB team. Winning the gold medal was fantastic.”

Speaking about the incredible achievement, Special Olympics GB Hockey Team Coach Lochlann Kaye said: “We wanted to come here and play well, we would have been happy with any medal, but to win gold… It’s a real honour. They’ve worked hard and it’s an amazing feeling to make it all worth it.

“There were tears, but there’s a lot of happiness.”

On how the sport has affected her daughter, Ellen’s mum, Michelle Greenall, told the Times: “It’s been the most amazing thing for Ellen.

“She’s always loved sport, but opportunities are rare for children with special needs, and with her having epilepsy, too, I have found people reticent to be ‘responsible’ for her.”

Ellen joined the Flyerz section of the Tunbridge Wells Hockey Team in 2018, which provides hockey opportunities for those of all ages with physical and learning disabilities.

As part of England Hockey and Access Sport, the Flyerz programme runs regular free sessions, which are adapted for different abilities and levels to give disabled children and young people more access
to the sport.

Ellen joined the Flyerz with her younger sister Rosie, having never played hockey before, but since then she has been part of an England team that participated – and won – at the European ParaHockeyID tournament in Antwerp in 2019.

Both sisters are enthusiastic about the sport and have become popular members of the club, attending regular training and will hopefully play for the women’s sides next season.

Michelle Greenall said: “Tunbridge Wells Hockey Club have paved the way for Ellen to develop her hockey skills and the Flyerz programme shows that sport can and should be accessible to everyone.”

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