Keeping you up to date with sport across the Forces world.
‘I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life’ is how Luke Pollard described the crowds at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. They spurred him and Dave Ellis to win para triathlete gold in the summer as England celebrated an incredible home games. On the RAF’s elite athlete scheme, Luke has enjoyed plenty of success with Dave since they paired up together in 2019, but last year they suffered heartbreak at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo when the chain on their bike broke and they couldn’t finish the race. The Commonwealth Games gold has gone some way to making up for that but the pair, England and GB’s best, are determined to come back even stronger for Paris 2024. Luke talks to Forces Sport about the highs and the lows, the challenges and the triumphs, and the addictive nature of elite sport.
How do professional rugby contracts work for serving military personnel? That's the question Forces Sport put to Chris Fowke, the Chief Operations Officer and Secretary of Army Rugby Union. The likes of Semesa Rokoduguni, who played at Bath Rugby for ten years and went on to represent England, paved the way for a growing number of men and women signing up to the big clubs, but it's generally done on an individual basis. Chris explains the development of the process and how it benefits the player, the armed forces, and the club they've signed for.
The Simpson Cup celebrated its tenth anniversary this year with a win for Team GB on US soil. A Ryder cup style tournament for injured, wounded and sick military veterans from the US and Great Britain, its creator John Simpson was a guest on Forces Sport in October last year. The competition continues to thrive and there were eleven new players involved this year at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
Amelia Faulker is 18 years old and is already established as a pistol shooter for Great Britain. She started competing at only 13 years old and after leaving school she needed to make a decision about her future and how she could pursue her chosen sport whilst also making a life for herself…so she chose the Army. But basic training has been intense and, mixed with two years of a global pandemic, she feels her shooting has suffered. But come January she’ll be full time with the Troops for Target programme and aims to be back to her best for the Paris Olympics in 2024
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.