‘Following dreams’: Britain’s Olympic heroes among those on New Year Honours List

  • BRITISH Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists are among those recognised in the 2022 New Year Honours List.

    Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells, who won team gold at the Tokyo Paralympics along with Sir Lee Pearson, and individual silvers, were appointed OBE for services to equestrianism. The gold medal-winning eventing team riders, Tom McEwen, who also took individual silver, Laura Collett and Oliver Townend, were appointed MBE with the same citation.

    Natasha told H&H she found out in early December and it was hard to keep the news a secret until New Year’s Eve.

    “I dreamed that I would go to a Paralympics one day; it had always been my dream, so you never expect this coming from something you love doing,” she said. “I work really hard trying to inspire the next generation of athletes, or young people to follow their dreams, because that’s what I did, and I think that comes into it, and to have this recognition is a big honour. I feel a lucky, lucky girl.”

    Sophie told H&H the honour was “surreal and humbling”.

    “It’s not something you can aim for or win; everything we do is trying to better ourselves and aiming towards something but this you have no control over; it’s amazing,” she said. “It comes from outside the sport, from non-horsey and even non-sporting people, and I hope that in the work we do, competing, coaching or whatever, it is helping inspire the next generation, bringing the sport into a good light, and making people believe that things are possible.”

    Tom told H&H it was an “incredible honour”.

    “The Olympics was always a main goal and it was a dream come true to compete there,” he said. “I was so fortunate to have Toledo as my partner at the Olympics, and hopefully it inspires a new generation as much as it’s inspired me!”

    Laura said she “didn’t think her year could get any better” and Oliver said he was “just incredibly honoured”, adding: “As always, a huge thanks to everyone who supports us, none of this would have been possible without you all.”

    Olympic format

    British Eventing CEO Helen West added: “I couldn’t be more delighted for Laura, Tom and Oliver to have their success acknowledged in such a deserving way. Their performances in Tokyo will have inspired riders everywhere. They have also not only set the standard for others but have also shown the world that the competition framework we have in Great Britain is the best there is in terms of producing horses and riders.”

    Fellow Tokyo gold medallists Joe Choong and Kate French were both appointed MBE for services to modern pentathlon, as was team coach Jabeena Maslin.

    Natalie O’Rourke, owner of Park Lane Stables Riding for the Disabled Association centre in Teddington, London, was appointed MBE, for services to people with disabilities and the local community, at the end of a year in which the stables raised £1.3m to secure its home.

    “This award is really for all of us, for the invisible army behind me who have never faltered in their belief in what we could achieve,” Natalie said. “I’m just an ordinary girl from Birmingham who followed what felt right. This award is dedicated to my dad, who gave up his career to bring me up after my mother died. Despite not sharing my passion for horses, he has quietly supported me in everything I’ve done over the years.”

    Former Blue Cross CEO Countess Sally de la Bedoyere was appointed CBE for services to animal welfare.

    Current CEO Chris Burghes told H&H: “Sally is a fabulous advocate for animal welfare and did much to promote this during her time at Blue Cross.

    “Sally led Blue Cross through significant growth including developing an ambitious strategy and more than doubling awareness of the charity, increasing income by nearly 20% as well as creating agile rehoming, veterinary and behaviour services to reach those animals and owners most in need.

    “We’re delighted to see her enormous contribution to animal welfare recognised.”

    George Paul and Reynold Kirk were also appointed MBE, for services to British Horseracing Heritage and to the North Irish Horse Regimental Association and the Carrickfergus Community Heritage Project respectively. Racing trainer and leading industry figure Terence McKeag was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to agriculture and equestrian sport in Northern Ireland.

    In the army awards, Simon Brooks-Ward, director of the London International and Royal Windsor horse shows, was appointed CBE for services to the MoD.

    Major General Simon Brooks-Ward is assistant chief of defence staff (reserves and cadets) and his service finishes in June.

    He told H&H: “As the most senior reservist in the armed forces and as a major general, I was deeply honoured at the end of my 32 years of service to be recognised in this way”.

    • What do you think of the list? Send your congratulations to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, and nearest town and county, and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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