Ali Booker Special
Keeping you up to date with sport across the Forces world.
Ali Booker started out in the police force, but her whole life interest in dietetics and nutrition soon bought about a change in career. After studying at university and qualifying as a dietitian she was looking for a way to combine all her passions when the opportunity came up to work, as an Army reserve, with the Defence Nutrition Advisory Service. She now works closely with MOD police and is also a PhD student researching shift work nutrition. In addition, she is an Army powerlifter and has been added to the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS). She wears many hats and she's passionate about all of them and this week, she talks to Forces Sport about how she fits it all in, how she wants to be actively involved in improving the way fitness and nutrition is implemented across the armed forces and, unbelievably, about a couple of new challenges on the horizon for this multi skilled individual.
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Lawn bowls is the best
The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham have come to a close, and without doubt, every home nations athlete has credited the crowd support as being a large part of their success. That also rings true for the forces competitors representing their countries this summer, including medal winners Luke Pollard and Dave Ellis in para triathlon for England, and Scotland’s para powerlifter Micky Yule.
Pete Reed Special
It is ten years since London hosted the summer Olympic Games. Team GB won 29 gold medals during the two-week tournament including a podium topping performance from Royal Navy star Pete Reed. He was part of the men's coxless four who enjoyed success during the competition. Reed, who had a glittering sporting career that saw him crowned a 3-time Olympic Champion, returned to his career in the Senior Service. But his life changed forever in 2019, when he suffered a spinal stroke, leaving him paralysed from the chest down. The inspirational and determined Pete Reed chats to Cath and Jules about his life and his hopes and aspirations for the future.
Jules and his Jodo
It’s only a matter of days until the Commonwealth Games kick off in Birmingham so, for second week running, Forces Sport has been speaking to a couple of our forces athletes. British Army judokas Sarah Hawkes and Victor Ahiavor will both be taking to the mat but representing different countries. Sarah is so proud to be competing for Northern Ireland and says this feels like a home games because her friends and family will be able to come and watch. Meanwhile, Victor is from Ghana, where he started doing judo as an eight-year-old. He can’t wait to wear the badge of his country, but also the Army, to show other Commonwealth athletes what is possible in this life.
The Commonwealth Games get underway at the end of July and, as ever, a select handful of forces athletes will be taking part. This week, Forces Sport speaks to Royal Marine judoka Chris Sherrington, Army boxer Meg Reid and the RAF’s para triathlete guide Luke Pollard. Chris’s journey started by just wanting to be a Royal Marines Commando and yet he went on to win gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Meg, meanwhile, is delighted to be representing Scotland as well as the Army, whilst Luke Pollard teams up again with visually impaired athlete Dave Ellis to try and put the disappointment of the Tokyo Paralympics behind them.
Bye bye Billy
This month, Billy Thomson stands down as secretary of Army Football - a post he’s held for 21 years. He jokes that he wasn’t much of a player but his love for the game, and his desire to facilitate the game at every level of the Army, has kept him a busy man over the last two decades. He’s overseen a massive push for professionalism in the army set up and even now, only weeks from retiring, he is still looking to the future and, in particular, facilitating more opportunities for women. A brilliant conversation with a Scotsman who’s not afraid to speak his mind on all areas of the beautiful game.
Staying with volleyball for the second week in a row, Forces Sport speak to Nikki Mead, the Army women’s head coach. Nikki lives and breathes the sport and whilst she is clearly passionate about the game, her roles as a coach and a manager mean she has to deal with the day-to-day admin associated with running a successful team, at any level. In this conversation, she discusses the highs and lows of Army volleyball…including their dominance at inter services and in the crown services tournament, but also the ongoing frustrations of keeping a minority sport going, especially after the difficulties of a global pandemic.
The Army men won the crown services volleyball tournament for the first time this year.
The annual tournament between all three armed forces, plus the GB police, prison and fire services, was played in May, and the Army men’s head coach Alex Menya believes their victory is one of their biggest achievements to date.
Originally from Uganda, Alex talks to Forces Sport about growing up with the game, honing his coaching skills from a very young age and how he endeavours to get the best out of his players every time they step on court.
The UK Armed Forces men’s football team will be looking to make history again this week by trying to win the Kentish Cup for the fifth time in a row. It’s been almost three years since their stunning victory in the Netherlands at the end of 2019 and while the team and back-room staff have changed, the winning ethos and positive attitude remains the same. Three of the team’s senior payers spoke to Forces Sport about what it means to play international football in Europe’s oldest cup competition.
Lord's and Ladies
For the first time ever, Lord’s have invited a military women’s team to play on the main pitch at the home of cricket. The UK Armed Forces ladies will take on an MCC XI when the Inter Services T20 returns to the ground this week. The game will be sandwiched between the two remaining IST20 men’s fixtures and the UKAF team manager Ros Brown, plus a couple of standout armed forces players – Lou Worsfold and Mel Vaggers - spoke to Forces Sport about the privilege and significance of this event.
Make Believe Test Matches
Adam Fisher may not even the best cricketer in his family, but he’s been a stalwart for his club, the Royal Air Force and the UK Armed Forces. The pilot, now training to be a flying instructor at RAF Cranwell, talks to Forces Sport about his love of all team sports and how that drove him to join up, plus his famous brother’s England debut in the West Indies earlier this year.
Netball - Not Just For Girls
Army Netball not only have a men’s team – one of their players has just been selected to play for England. Dave Sunaki has only been playing for eight months but he has been guided and supported by Army Netball’s team manager Laura Ellis. Her vision in the sport has created many pathways and opportunities for all her payers - women, men and the mixed team alike. She talks to Forces Sport about her drive, her ambitions and her genuine passion for Netball and everyone involved in it.
RAF musician Shona Brownlee was coming to the end of basic training when she got injured – what seemed innocuous at first, turned in to years of surgery and eventually the decision to amputate her right leg below the knee. She was introduced to skiing through the Battle Back programme and she’s gone on to represent GB at the recent Paralympics games in Beijing. Still serving, Shona was named RAF Sportswoman of the Year in 2021, but away from her sporting prowess, she tells Forces Sport how fiercely dedicated she is to her first love – and the reason she joined the military – music.
Dyfan Pierce took over as the UK Armed Forces Men’s Head Coach in March 2020. It followed the team’s historic fourth successive Kentish Cup title, a three-way annual tournament between UK, French and Dutch Forces. It preceded, however, a global pandemic and lockdown which means, under his two-year tenure, the men have only played four matches.
Dyfan talks to Forces Sport about the competitive summer ahead, the challenges he faces and his drive for the team to adopt the UKAF culture and ethos for success.
UK Armed Forces and Army ladies’ tennis number one, Chloe Pike, has been chatting to Julian Evans about her passion for her sport. Injury threatened to bring a premature halt to her days playing and competing. But the Coronavirus pandemic meant she was able to go under the surgeon's knife to resolve a serious shoulder injury before making her Wimbledon debut last summer in the Inter Services Championships, where she helped the Army to success.
Maple Syrup with Beavers
In a post-Invictus Forces Sport podcast, Cath has chosen her favourite interview moments from The Hague 2022. First up, she speaks to Midge Hartley and Fester Hunt straight after Team UK’s defeat to Team USA in the Wheelchair Rugby – even though the Invictus Games is about more than medals, it certainly doesn’t take away from the competition. And then there’s Stuart Padley and his dad, Neil, who talk about the emotions involved in competing and spectating at the Games, as well as some Paralympic ambitions.
Dan the Squipper Man
Dan Tasker wants to make his son proud. An injury to his wrist led to him being medically discharged from the Royal Air Force - a job and a lifestyle that he loved – and at his lowest point, he only saw himself as a broken man. But the Invictus programme changed things around and introduced him to new friends, new sports, and a new way of living. As he tells Forces Sport, he’s ready to compete and show his family how far he has come.
A technical glitch led to Sherry McBain’s application to compete at the Invictus Games successfully going through – so it was clearly written in the stars that this RAF Squadron Leader nurse should be on the bus for The Hague 2022. Speaking to Forces Sport’s Cath Brazier Sherry describes how she was at rock bottom and was diagnosed with PTSD – but she says her Invictus family have been a huge cog in her recovery journey, and she truly believes that she would have been medically discharged without them.
Getting In Shape For Invictus
Stephen Rice’s story isn’t an unfamiliar one – formerly a captain in the British Army, he suffers from PTSD following his experiences in Afghanistan in 2010. This year, he will be competing at the Invictus Games in The Hague, and he tells Forces Sport how far he’s come in his recovery and how sport has played an integral cog in that journey.
Tall and Talented
Sarah Bonar was identified as a talented athlete as a youngster, but she says she’s found her true home in rugby. Talking to Forces Sport presenters Cath Brazier and Julian Evans, the sunny Scotswoman chats about the World Cup, the Six Nations and facing her teammates in the inter services – her delight at being a crucial second row for Scotland, Quins and the Royal Air Force is very clear to see!
Countdown to Invictus
Rachel Williamson was named as the first female captain of Invictus Team UK in October 2019. 30 months on, it’s likely she’ll also hold the accolade of longest serving captain, after The Hague 2020 Games were postponed twice due to the COVID pandemic. But they are finally happening, and Rachel talks to Cath and Jules about the long wait, the challenges of leading a team in lockdown and her relationship with sport, prior and post injury.
A day at the races
Army jockey Nathan Rahman is a leading light in the world of military horse racing. Ahead of this year’s Grand Military Gold Cup, always held at Sandown, Nathan discusses his years of experience with Cath and Jules, as well as injuries and recovery. It’s clear his love for the sport drives him on, to succeed on the racetrack, in his Army career and in family life too.
Army shooting star Sam Gowin is the guest on Forces Sport this week as he talks to Cath and Jules about being a Commonwealth Games medal winner and how he has his sights set on competing for Great Britain at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Sam competes in the rapid-fire pistol event and he gives an amazing insight in the mental skills needed to compete at the top level and how he’s been honing them over the years.
Never Call It Ping Pong
Ping-pong playing padre Nicola Frail is our guest on Forces Sport this week as she talks about the power of table tennis in the military. Cath Brazier and Julian Evans caught up with her at the Army’s Championships in Aldershot where she talks about combining sport with her job as a minister, the physical and mental health benefits of playing table tennis and how competitive she really is!
Army Rugby’s High Flyer
Jamie Miller is the captain of the Army Rugby team, and he juggles that role with being a full time Apache pilot. The men in red will look to defend their inter services title this spring including the showdown against the Royal Navy at Twickenham. On Forces Sport this week, Jamie talks to Cath and Jules about his early days as a professional rugby player, his career switch to the military, and leadership - something he says is learned not natural.
Competitor to Coach
Roger Cruikshank and Nathan Jones both competed for the Royal Air Force alpine team when the inter services snow sports championships first came to Meribel. Now, sixteen years later, they are part of the coaching set up for the RAF team, and in 2022 they enjoyed success with the light blue ladies winning the alpine competition and the men coming second. Both have had very varied lives, both on and off their skis, including Roger’s appearance for Team GB at the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006.
All IS Well in Meribel
It was the competition that almost didn’t happen. But after the inter services snow sports championships were cancelled in 2021 due to COVID, the organisers were more determined than ever to make it happen. And so they did. Meribel ISSSC 2022 is underway and the athletes from all three services, across alpine skiing, telemark and snowboard, are keen to get racing. This is the 70th inter services snow sports competition and the 15th time it’s been held in the resort of Meribel, in the French Alps.
Taylor, swift on ice
Royal Marine Taylor Lawrence burst on to the international bobsleigh scene in January 2020, being fast tracked into Brad Hall’s team as injury cover for a World Cup race in Winterberg. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength and will be competing in his first Olympic Games in Beijing in February. A talented sportsman, Taylor played academy level football and rugby union before joining the Armed Forces at the age of 20. He reveals to Cath Brazier and Julian Evans the military pride that drives him to succeed.
Policing the Judo mat
Sarah Hawkes is hoping she’ll be selected to compete in Judo at the Commonwealth Games 2022, which are being held in Birmingham. The Corporal, who serves with the Royal Military Police, will be representing Northern Ireland, and is excited about the prospect of a ‘home’ games. At the moment, she isn’t looking any further than this summer but she says competing for Great Britain at the Olympics is, unsurprisingly, her ultimate aim.
All well with Meribel???
Officials are hoping the current COVID-19 restrictions in France will be lifted in time for the Inter Services Snow Sports Championships to take place in Meribel. The event, which was cancelled last year, is scheduled to start on 30 January but restrictions mean competitors are currently not allowed to travel to the resort. Lieutenant Colonel (Ret'd) Steve Davis, secretary for the UK Armed Forces Winter Sports Association, revealed to Forces News that a postponement until March is being "tentatively" considered.
Baubles on Ice
Martin Colclough’s first experience of para sport was 25 years ago when he as physical training instructor in the British Army. Little did he know then that the Paralympic movement would come to define his life, his career, and his legacy. He is a huge cog in the wheel that connects and develops injured, wounded, and sick serving personnel and veterans with the world of elite disability sport. He talks to Cath and Julian about how it came about and what keeps him going in this ever-changing sporting environment.
Gold Medals ARE Heavy
Stu Robinson is a gold medal winning Paralympian. He’s a key member of the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby team who, this summer, became the first European nation to win a medal at the Paralympics. Hear his story here on Forces Sport, from the hospital bed where he woke up with both of his legs amputated, to being crowned Paralympic champions in Tokyo.
Billy Aprahamian set himself a five-year plan to go from the British Army to being involved in the UK’s top horse-racing festivals. After winning the Grand Military Gold Cup in 2018 as a jockey, he went on to become assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson at Seven Barrows stables. Billy shares his story with Forces Sport and tells us how, ultimately, his life is driven by his love of horses.
Gemma Rowland Military Mindset
Gemma Rowland is an elite rugby player and gives 110% whether she is wearing an Army shirt, the black and yellow for Wasps in the Premier 15s or the red of Wales women. But, as Cath Brazier and Julian Evans found out, it’s her drive and constant search for improvement off the pitch that really singles her out. In this episode they go beyond rugby to discuss mental health, the challenges still faced by women in sport and how the military gave her the strength to achieve.
Ding Dong Nick De-long
Nick De-long suffered the disappointment of not making it as a professional football as a youngster but was encouraged to pursue an armed forces career. Cath Brazier and Julian Evans have both seen how, in his time with Royal Air Force and UK Armed Forces football, ‘Ding Dong’ has proven to be an inspirational leader, both on and off the pitch. Going full circle, he has now returned to Bristol Rovers, where he played as a youth, to help develop their young players.
The Jake Paul Challenge
Army boxer Chez Nihell speaks to Cath and Jules about his tough decision to retire from professional boxing, even with an unbeaten record in four fights. An armed forces stalwart in the ring, he is looking forward to coaching the stars of tomorrow and reckons he could handle himself against the likes of Jake Paul!
To mark Remembrance, historian Graham McKechnie speaks to Cath and Jules about some of the great characters that have represented their country on the field of play and on the battlefield over the years. Affiliated to Northampton Saints, Graham discusses the legendary Edgar Mobbs, who fought and died in WW1 all the way through to modern servicemen like Tim Rodber.
In the sixth episode of Forces Sport, Cath Brazier and Julian Evans speak to Sam Matavesi – a Royal Navy rugby player who is excelling at English premiership club Northampton Saints. The hooker is a proud Cornishman and Fijian and will now spend the next month with Fiji Rugby as they face Spain, Wales and Georgia, in the autumn internationals.
Balls and Buckets
In the fifth episode of Forces Sport, Cath Brazier and Julian Evans speak to Amy Cokayne - an RAF, Harlequins and England rugby player who has amassed 57 caps for her country at only 25 years old! She revisits her childhood in New Zealand and how she could have been a kiwi plus she talks about how she’s recruiting elite players into the military and what her very competitive family gets up to at Christmas!
Ironing and Early Mornings
Cath Brazier and Julian Evans speak to Liam Sanford - an RAF, England and GB hockey player who had his first Olympic experience this summer in Tokyo. He shares what the Olympic village was like, how he's dealt with disappointment and what it’s like to be back at work in a new job at RAF Brize Norton.
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Where's the rest of you?
In the third episode of Forces Sport, Cath Brazier and Julian Evans speak to John Simpson, the man behind the Simpson Cup - a Ryder Cup style golf tournament for wounded, injured or sick service personnel and veterans from Great Britain and the US.
Melons and Marathons
Forces Sport brings you an insight into the world of military sport through up-to-date news and insightful interviews with some of the armed forces’ best sportspeople. In the second episode, Cath Brazier and Julian Evans speak to professional triathlete Kat Matthews - the Army physiotherapist competes for GB in Ironman, and she talks about what motivates her to succeed in such a tough individual sport.
Scrums and celebrity saunas
Forces Sport brings you an insight into the world of military sport. In the first episode, Cath Brazier and Julian Evans speak to Bath Rugby stars Semesa Rokoduguni and Josh McNally. The duo give their thoughts on what their armed forces backgrounds bring to professional rugby, their roles as fathers and the future of inter service and combined service rugby.