Olympian, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Canterbury Christ Church University alumna, Grace Balsdon, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her achievements in hockey and contribution to women’s sports.

Kent born Grace was an Elite Christ Church Sport Scholar from 2011- 2014, receiving a bursary and support from the University to help her balance her studies in Physical Education and Sport and Exercise Science alongside her sporting schedule.

She started her career playing for Canterbury Hockey Club, and currently plays club hockey in the Women's England Hockey League Premier Division for Hampstead and Westminster.

Grace made her senior international debut in 2014 and has gone on to successfully represent both GB and England hockey, becoming a key figure in their defences. The defender has also proved to be threat from penalty corners too, scoring the winning goal to secure England the bronze medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The following summer she was a key member of the gold medal-winning GB Commonwealth Games squad and has also represented England in the World Cup and EuroHockey Championships. She has so far gained nearly 70 caps for England and 48 caps for GB.

Grace said: "When you receive honours such as this it is a lovely moment to take the time to pause and reflect on the journey you have been on and what you have achieved; the resilience and the determination you have shown to overcome barriers and ultimately achieve great successes.

"I have such great memories from my time at Canterbury Christ Church University that I’ll always look back on fondly. Playing hockey for three years with the team, winning Varsity and having a fun time as a group.

"I was lucky to be given a sports scholarship and it was something that I really valued. All my lecturers supported me and helped me keep up-to-date with academic work so I never missed out, and the sports science team helped me with training. I really appreciated it all. It was invaluable support to me because I wouldn’t have been able to keep-up academically or physically at the level I was required to be as an elite sports person without it.

"Sport is an amazing place, where people can come together, build communities and form friendships that will be with you for life. So have the courage to put yourself out there, take opportunities and enjoy it."

Grace Balsdon, Honorary Doctor, standing in Canterbury Cathedral.
Grace Balsdon, alumna and Honorary Doctor

Professor Rama Thirunamachandran OBE DL, Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “We are delighted to welcome Grace back to Canterbury Christ Church University to celebrate her outstanding achievements in hockey and elite sport.

“Her personal dedication and determination to succeed, as well as her support for her team and other young sporting professionals, has made her an exemplary role model for our students, her fellow alumni. We wish her and England Hockey well with their future campaigns.”

Grace received her award at a ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral, on Tuesday, 12 September. where she was joined by just over 1,100 Canterbury Christ Church University students who also celebrated their achievements with families and friends in graduation ceremonies on the same day.