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09 April 2021

Rose Paterson Community Sportswoman Award launched at sixth Aintree Grand Women’s Summit

The sixth Aintree Grand Women’s Summit took place virtually today, with ITV racing presenter Alice Fox-Pitt interviewing guests via Zoom. The theme was Sport and Mental Health: A Powerful Relationship.

This year Evie Paterson, daughter of Aintree’s late chairman Rose Paterson, introduced the Grand Women’s Summit and spoke about her mother’s legacy.

Evie said: “It shouldn’t be me here at all; it should be my mother. She always did the introductions to the Grand Women’s Summit so beautifully and so gracefully, and I cannot hope to fill her shoes.

“What I can do is say a few words about her legacy. It is easy to forget what a novel initiative the Grand Women’s Summit was when it was set up, and even now remains a fairly unique event in the racing calendar.

“As the first female chairman of a National Hunt racecourse, she herself understood what it was like to operate in a man’s world and was passionate about helping women succeed in racing and sport more broadly.”

Evie continued: “I would also like to touch on Aintree’s ties with the Merseyside community. She [Rose] understood that Aintree and the Grand National belonged to Liverpool, and did a huge amount to forge and strengthen the links between the racecourse and Merseyside.

“To bring all these aspects of her legacy together, we are launching the Rose Paterson Community Sportswoman Award. This will be an annual award given by Aintree to recognise a girl or woman from Merseyside who is making a difference to grassroots community sport, through participation or support.

“We want to reward girls and women, sportspeople or otherwise, who display the qualities that my mother possessed in abundance – perseverance, selflessness, devotion and inclusiveness.”

Evie also mentioned that her family will launch the Rose Paterson Trust, to help suicide prevention, tomorrow on Randox Grand National Day at Aintree.

Alice Fox-Pitt also interviewed Judy Murray alongside Kate Davies, physiotherapist to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, England Rugby and the British Equestrian team. Kate also worked closely with recently retired jockey Richard Johnson for many years.

The trio discussed the importance of resilience, with Judy saying: “Failure teaches you more than success, so it is really important to learn how to handle frustration, defeat, disappointment, failure. You’ve either won or you’ve learnt.”

Murray mentioned that her son, multiple Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, ‘had to learn to channel his emotions better so as not to waste energy getting upset about something you can’t control’. She also said that making a comeback after injury required considerable resilience and fortitude.

Davies added: “The physio room is often seen as a place of psychological safety, and I wasn’t sure that I was equipped to deal with everything that I was hearing.

“Participation, that sense of belonging that sport brings is extraordinary. Achieving your ‘purpose’ only drives mental health and wellbeing.”

Murray spoke about how team sport can teach us all so much about life skills, adding: “As a parent or a supporter, you don’t have to be an expert on everything, but you have to know enough and you have to find the right people to put round the athlete – people who really want to make it happen and go out of their way to do their absolute best.

“I am a huge advocate of the power of sport to prepare you for adulthood.”

Fox-Pitt then spoke to double Olympic, World and European champion taekwondo athlete Jade Jones, who won her first Olympic gold medal at London 2012 aged 19.

“You achieved a lifetime goal at 19; was it hard to maintain focus and discipline afterwards?” asked Alice.

Jade replied: “Yes – I wasn’t actually the best at my sport yet, I just gave all my heart and soul on one day. The pressure on my shoulders really mounted and I experienced the ‘Olympic dip’ afterwards – there is an empty feeling after something like that,  whether you win or lose, and it was definitely hard to get myself motivated again, but I found my way back and found my motivation again.

“What I learnt from lockdown was how important the connection with your friends and family is; it has given me extra motivation. Everyone’s had a crap time and needs a buzz, and I am hoping that the Tokyo Olympics can be the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pippa Funnell is one of the sport of eventing’s most popular and successful athletes, with the Rolex Grand Slam, two European championship titles, multiple medals at Olympic, World and European level and several CCI5* successes to her name. She has spoken publicly in the past about her own struggles with the psychological side of sport.

She said: “My whole life has been involved with the one thing I am passionate about, which is horses, and everything in my career has come from working with them. The part they have played in my mental health is huge.”

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