Zach Wallace, the 22-year-old hockey midfielder who has represented England at one World Cup and two EuroHockey Championships, and Team GB at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has been selected as Surrey’s official baton bearer for the Queen’s Baton Relay this summer.
Visiting the Commonwealth
The baton, which contains the Queen’s message to the Commonwealth,has been visiting the 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth since October 2021. It reached Scotland on 18 June, and is due to arrive in England on 4 July. By the time it takes its place at the opening ceremony of the 16th Commonwealth Games, at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on Thursday, 28 July, it will have been travelling for over 270 days. Caterham’s Zach, who started playing hockey firstly for Oxted, and then Surbiton hockey clubs, made his international debut in October 2018. He has 67 caps: 30 with England and 37 with Great Britain, and recently took the captain’s armband in the FIH Pro League.
He has been playing for Dutch club H.O.C. Gazellen-Combinatie (known as HGC), but the season has now ended, and Zach is back in the UK, focusing on preparing for the Games:
“Just the prospect of playing at the Commonwealth Games is fantastic, but I’m also very competitive. I want to win the gold!”
There were four categories that could be used to nominate people to participate in the Queen’s Baton Relay. Zach was nominated on the basis of him having ‘made a meaningful contribution to sport, education, the arts, culture or charity’.
On the morning of 7 July Zach will be escorting the baton along the Surrey leg of its journey, with the stunning view from Newlands Corner viewpoint, in Guildford, as the backdrop. Local school children will also be able to claim their place in Commonwealth Games history, as they have been invited to come and cheer him on.
Zach is excited about being given the honour of representing the county:
“The opportunity to carry the Queen’s Baton is amazing. I’m only 22, so it has been really incredible to be selected.”
Sport and study
Alongside his sporting commitments, Zach is also studying for an economics degree through the Open University, as well as an Investment Management Certificate, which will open up a pathway to a career in finance:
“My mum is insistent I have something to fall back on,she would never let me get away with focusing purely on hockey!”
Once the Commonwealth Games are over, Team GB will be turning their attention towards the next Olympics. They finished in fifth place in Tokyo in 2020. Although Zach was disappointed that they didn’t place higher, he know they have a great chance of doing well the next time round, and is ready for the challenge:
“We’ve got Paris 2024 coming up fast. As a team, we’re all driven to succeed, so we’ll be fighting hard for a medal position. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.”
England’s first match at the Commonwealth Games takes place on Friday, 29 July, against Ghana. Visit birmingham2022.com for more information.