King’s welcomed Crista Cullen MBE to the Bright House assembly this morning via Microsoft Teams to share her story of failure, opportunity and grasping the moment. Crista is a triple Olympian, representing GB hockey at the Beijing, London and Rio Olympic Games, culminating in 197 representative caps for England and GB over the course of her hockey career. Having grown up in rural Kenya, Crista spent her teenage years at boarding school in England, where she found a sense of belonging through sport. Over the next decade, she progressed through the ranks of elite hockey. From the lows of failure to qualify for the Athens 2004 Olympics to the highs of Olympic gold in Rio 2016. Throughout her athletic career, Crista maintained her role in the corporate world – creating a sense of balance and perspective that was central to her sporting performance. Following her success at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Crista founded Tofauti, a charity aimed at making a sustained conservational change in Africa.
Pupils also had the opportunity to ask Christa questions on Microsoft Teams, live, at the end of her talk:
Jamie – If you were to speak to your 14-year-old self, what would you say?
Christa – “It’s a bumpy road, everything isn’t always perfect – but who wants to be perfect anyway? I wasn’t very confident and usually shy’ d away from things, I erred on the side of caution a lot. If your gut says it’s the right thing to do, you must go for it. Sometimes you’ve just got to have a go and throw yourself in. Although I’m talking about sport, it’s holistic and can be applied to many, many things in life.”
Ollie – During your hockey career, did you ever have any setbacks or injuries, if so how did you deal with theses, and do you have any advice for athletes with similar problems?
Christa – “It’s the reality of playing top-level sport. Sometimes you’ve got to take things on the chin. It’s so hard to watch on the sidelines. Fracturing my wrist at the Beijing Olympics, I played through but that was my choice. I don’t advise it! I was actually told that I’d never play hockey again. You have a great support network around you whether that’s your family, friends, teachers, coaches so try not to bottle up your feelings about your injuries, speak to people. Be diligent when you see specialists about your injury, take their advice – a lot of the physical therapy is a lot of monotonous repetitive therapy. But you must do it and be committed to the process.”
Maddie – Did you have any idols growing up?
Christa – “I’m a little bit older than you, so things were a little bit different in sport when I was growing up. My idol was my sports teacher at school. I grew up in Kenya so I didn’t really see any female sports role models. When I got to Oakham, my Head of Girls Games was a lady called Jo Welch who was actually Captain of England Netball. She said to me once that if I practised really hard, one day I could play for England, and that message stayed with me constantly.”
Lydia – Do you have any tips on time management? How did you manage your school work and training?
Christa – “It’s really hard. Sometimes I wanted to go to that party, or I wanted to do extra training but I had coursework or an exam to revise for. So sometimes you do need to prioritise and make sacrifices. Work with teachers around you to help guide you. You’ll be pulled in many directions with your passions and commitments, but make sure you’re commuted to doing the right thing, at the right time. And you know when you should be revising and not be going to a social event or getting a bit of extra training in.”