Britain’s historic hockey gold at Rio 2016 was one of the unforgettable highlights of an incredible summer of sport.
Nine million people tuned in to watch Team GB’s stunning win on penalties and the nail-biting final even forced the delay of BBC News at Ten.
The victory has catapulted the sport into a new league and underlined once more that women’s sport is as exciting, as captivating, and as unmissable as men’s.
The Rio Olympics and Paralympics showcased the outstanding talent and skill of women’s sports stars from Great Britain across the world.
I was fortunate enough to watch the women’s hockey semi-final win, almost missing my plane home to make sure I caught the end. It was the most incredible experience and sitting in the arena, surrounded by British fans, it felt like the whole of the country was there supporting the team.
This superb quality was replicated by our superstars across sports in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games – from Nicola Adams’ sheer dominance in the ring, to Laura Trott and Sarah Storey’s unparalleled achievements on the track and Ellie Robinson’s amazing gold in the pool.
Watching double gold medallist Kadeena Cox carrying the flag at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics was particularly special. I was honoured in Rio to meet some of our Paralympic stars and see their pride in their outstanding achievements.
These are the kind of role models who are increasing the profile of women’s sport and are helping to inspire the next generation of talent.
We know that there is a gap between the numbers of women and men regularly participating in sport.
I’m pleased to say that gap is starting to close but we are not complacent about the challenges to increase the profile and participation of women’s sport.
More work needs be done to ensure that girls and women can enjoy the enormous benefits that playing sport brings and increase representation of women in the sport workforce at every level.
This is why Women’s Sport Week is such an important campaign. It is a fantastic opportunity to build on the momentum of Rio and drive up women’s participation in sport further.
This week will not only bang the drum for women’s sport but raise awareness of the opportunities for women of all abilities and backgrounds to get involved in sport, whether that is playing, coaching, volunteering or working in sports administration.
The campaign will also celebrate the achievements of our women sports superstars – and there is much to celebrate.
A record 30,000 tickets were sold for the Women’s FA Cup final betweenArsenal and Chelsea at Wembley in May.
I took my sons to the first Women’s FA Cup final held at Wembley last year, when Chelsea beat Notts County, and they were as excited as they would have been going to any men’s match.
Over the next three years, England will play host to the women’s cricket, hockey and netball World Cups, which will not only be hugely important for raising the profile of these sports, but women’s team sport in general.
As well as the obvious health benefits of being active, sport teaches important lessons in discipline, dedication and teamwork. You learn that other people come to depend on you, and you depend on others.
I am a passionate Manchester City fan, whose women’s team has just won the league title, but I am a lover of all sports and I, like the rest of the country, have enjoyed a wonderful year for British athletes.
The Olympics and Paralympics especially has reminded me of sport’s power. It transforms lives, brings communities together and this campaign will celebrate what is great about women’s sport and help improve its status across the UK.