RAF Athletes Excel at Highland Games

RAF sprinters, hill runners and tug-of-war athletes carried home three trophies from Saturday’s annual Braemar Gathering in Scotland in a unique Highland Games event attended by Her Majesty The Queen.

Cheered on by a crowd of 16,000 spectators at the famous grass track arena in the heart of the Cairngorms, RAF Waddington’s four-man Medley Relay team (story image) stormed ahead of the competition to take the Inter-Services Challenge Shield Medley Relay. A convincing win by Corporal James Bellward in the gruelling Hill Race and victory by the Air Command Tug-of-War team in the Braemar Plate completed triple honours for the RAF athletes.

HM The Queen presenting the Inter-Services Challenge Shield to FS Laurence Ramm
HM The Queen presenting the Inter-Services Challenge Shield to FS Laurence Ramm

 

After receiving the Shield from Her Majesty, Medley Relay team captain Flight Sergeant Laurence Ramm explained how team work had been key to their success. He said, “We have a good ethos, we train hard, we have the admiration of each other and we know each other’s talents and expertise. Because of that we planned the best formation and it worked.”

Running one lap of the 300 yard track on the second leg was chef Senior Aircraftman Clint Lashley. Prior to joining the RAF Clint had only sprinted at school level in the Caribbean. He said, “When I found out about this event I was straight in there with the guys, who were all welcoming, and we won today.

Cpl James Bellward receiving the Gathering Hill Race trophy
Cpl James Bellward receiving the Gathering Hill Race trophy

 

Climbing a path 1,200 feet to the top of five cairns overlooking the arena, runners in the Gathering Hill Race choose their own way back down in an exhilarating return to the Royal Pavilion. Beating athletes from across the UK and Europe in this hotly contested race was RAF Physical Training Instructor Corporal James Bellward. He said, “Coming down you just follow the quickest line you can find, dodging other runners, across heather bushes and bits of track. The crowd were amazing when I came through the finish line, all cheering because I was the only one on the track. It’s the first Highland Games I’ve done so all the Scottish traditions, the pipe bands, the dancing, all the track and field events are just amazing.”

Cpl James Todd of the Air Command Tug-of-War Team
Cpl James Todd of the Air Command Tug-of-War Team

 

After a disappointing start to the competition, the RAF Air Command Tug-of-War team regained composure to battle their way back to reach the final of the Braemar Plate, one of two inter-service tug-of-war events held on the day. Cyberspace Communication Specialist Corporal James Todd who has been competing in the sport for four years believes anyone with will-power can do well. He said, “There’s so much technique and skill involved with the sport. You can be the strongest person in the world but after you’re on that rope for about 30 seconds you’re going to struggle if you’ve not got the mental strength as well.”

Air Command Tug-of-War Team pulling their way to the Braemar Plate final
Air Command Tug-of-War Team pulling their way to the Braemar Plate final

 

Head of RAF Tug-of War Wing Commander Nick Robson explained the importance of the Braemar Gathering to its military competitors. He said, “Braemar is where the reigning monarch comes to watch her Armed Forces compete on the track, on the hill and on the rope. Looking at the 16,000 people who are cheering the RAF in our one hundredth year, that inspires today’s athletes, it commemorates the previous athletes who have been on that track before us, and more importantly it will inspire the next generation to join the Royal Air Force and maybe one day they could be competing for us in front of Her Majesty The Queen.”

Imagery: © Crown Copyright (SAC Connor Tierney and LAC Sam Holden)

Source: Flt Lt Peter Lisney, 7644 Sqn RAF Media Ops

 

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