World Cup winner defies medics

IT WASN’T the news Margaret Bottomley wanted to hear.

After the veteran sports fanatic ruptured the ACL ligament in her knee while skiing three years ago she was turned down for surgery and told that maybe it was time to slow down.

Bottomley’s response was just the opposite. Her hard work on the fitness front not only enabled her to return to the hockey pitch and tennis court but also to earn international honours for the first time as a member of the England Over-60s hockey side.

And what a summer it was for the England Masters team in 2018. They won all 22 matches, scored 132 goals, conceded only three and won two World Cups.

Bottomley, a mum of two and grandmother of three who lives at Rastrick, is a former sports teacher at Colne Valley High School and Kirklees College.

The midfielder has entered her 39th year of playing for Halifax Hockey Club (formerly Elland and then Calder). She is the Ladies Club Captain and coaches the under 14 girls.

She has also played tennis at Park Tennis Club since she was 13. She is currently chair person of the Brighouse club, has coached there for 30 years and still plays competitively for Park in the Calderdale League and Rastrick Tennis Club in the Yorkshire League and Huddersfield League.

Bottomley is chair of the Calderdale Community Tennis Partnership and has run the Calderdale Junior Tennis Championships for the last 15 years.

She has also swung a racket for Yorkshire Veterans but those activities had to go on the back burner when she got involved in the England Masters hockey set-up for the first time last year.

Invited to battle for selection after impressing for the North, she fought her way through three trials for England and was the only player in the squad of 18 who had never been involved at that level before.

England notched their first eight wins of last summer at the Tilburg Invitational Tournament in Holland in early May and then won the Home Nations title at Swansea in June.

The stakes were raised considerably for the Grand Masters World Cup at Barcelona later that month but England carried all before them, beating Argentina 7-0 in the final.

England returned to Spain for the IMHA Masters World Cup, known as the Legends Cup, at the end of July and faced their toughest opposition yet with teams from the other side of the world involved.

Bottomley’s side duly beat New Zealand and Australia by two-goal margins in soaring temperatures to prove themselves the best of the best.

Success represented a remarkable Lazarus act for Bottomley, who played in all 22 England games and is going through the national team’s trial process for 2019 this month.

She said: “The highlights of the year were being unbeaten, starting and scoring in the World Cup final and listening to the national anthem being played.”

Bottomley met her husband Allan while teaching and their son David followed in his father’s footsteps and played cricket and billiards.

Daughter Louise (now Evans) plays tennis and hockey and Margaret said she played both sports better than her. Louise went to the University of North Carolina on a tennis scholarship and currently plays hockey in Halifax’s first team, while Margaret plays for the thirds.

When asked what had made her play sport into her 60s, Bottomley referred to the advice she had received from the medical professional.

“And there’s the answer – I’m not ready to slow down and I don’t feel my age!

“Fortunately I got help from some good physios and have a fair amount of determination. After months of working on rehab I was able to play hockey and tennis again.

“However, I haven’t dared to go skiing again as for the time being I’ve got too much to lose!”

Bottomley is hoping her story may inspire some former players to take up hockey again and the Halifax club does run ‘Back to Hockey’ sessions.