Crista Cullen is best known for being an elite British hockey player, winning medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. But she has a second passion – wildlife.
Crista is a third-generation Kenyan/British, is fluent in Swahili, and splits her time between the UK and Kenya, where she flies a plane to stop poachers and protect wildlife on ‘Galana’, her family’s 60,000-acre wildlife conservancy, where she lives amongst Indigenous tribes and wild animals. Not content with having a dog or a cat for a pet as a child, she chose a mongoose and a scorpion.
Her passion for helping save wildlife led Crista to found her own charity called ‘Tofauti’, which means ‘difference’ in Swahili. Crista was aware that in order to help save endangered animals, the local community required education, so she set up a school in a local tribal village.
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Lincolnshire-born Crista Cullen was born in 1985 to two sport-loving parents; her father was a golfer and her mother played professional squash. She was introduced to hockey at age 9 when she was living in Kenya. She burst onto the professional hockey scene at just age 18. She won 197 caps for England and Great Britain and participated in three Olympic Games, as well as the Commonwealth Games.
She was part of the Great Britain squad who competed in the pool stages of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, won bronze at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and won gold in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. She was also part of the England squad who won bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. At the same time as this, Crista was playing club hockey for Leicester.
Crista’s admirable experience as a world-class hockey player has won her numerous awards over the years. She was named in the International Hockey Federation World Star XI in 2006, as well as the 2006 Great Britain Hockey Athlete of the Year, and Hockey Writers’ 2005 and 2006 UK Hockey Player if the Year. She was also nominated in 2006 and 2008 for the FIH Player of the Year Awards (Young Woman), and the FIH Hockey Player of the Year (Woman) Award in 2012.
To show her appreciation for Crista’s achievements, the Queen awarded her with a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) award in the 2017 New Year Honours List for her services to the sport.
Alongside her sporting career, Crista works as a Business Development Consultant for The Kennel Club, and as a Performance Director for Edwin Doran Sports Tours.
After she retired from hockey following the Rio games in 2016, Crista founded the charity ‘Tofauti’, which aims to make sustained conservational changes in Africa for the wildlife and communities. In 2020, the charity became the partner of the Tofauti Everyone Active junior women and men’s cycling teams.
Thanks to her 15 years as an elite sportswoman, and her experience in charity work and wildlife conservation, Crista is an educational and entertaining speaker, presenter, narrator, host, course leader, and mentor.
Crista has experience in sports presenting, as well as presenting documentaries about the natural world and the exploration of both diverse worldwide cultures and wildlife species, as well as promoting voices that may otherwise go unheard.
Crista has narrated a number of stories around her sport as well as conservation, including Ngumu: The Women of Kilimanjaro (2019), Tofauti & Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy (2019), Crista Cullen: Disappearing Tribes Endangered Lives (2019), and Hockey with Crista Cullen MBE (2019).
Crista is a passionate keynote speaker who aims to merge her elite sport experience with that of the corporate environment, focussing on building cultures that empower people to be at their best. She also hosts day courses to help senior management improve the core components of performance culture, and to successfully implement it into every organisation.