The weather has not been conducive to great sport this week. I blame the Chaplain! Which reminds me; I was preaching at a prep school last Sunday on a glorious day. During the prayers, which were very well read out by three charming students, I was amused to hear the following prayer: "Lord, help our exam candidates to find the questions to their liking", followed by "and remind them, Lord, to turn over the exam paper in case there are any questions on the back of the paper". Clearly anyone from that school not performing well in CE will be blaming God!
I have therefore decided to look at a ‘team’ that is more of a pair. The pair concerned is Thomas Tulloch (Rt IV) and his eventing pony called Spirit VIth or Sam. Together this team have just won the British Eventing Pony Championship at Brand Hall.
I caught up with Tom on his birthday to try to find out more about one of Shrewsbury’s perhaps less well-known sporting champions.
Tom began his riding career on a pony called Blackie. He then moved on to Pebbles; which reminded me of happy summers on Shoreham beach. Tom was not that kind about Pebbles, describing him as "not very good". I too am not that fond of pebbles – at least not on the beach. He had a number of ponies after Pebbles until he teamed up with Spirit VIth (Sam). This pony has given Tom his best wins to date. They won the Jumping with Style competition over 1.10m and 1.15m high fences, and then of course there was the recent triumph at Brandhall. Tom is trained by Jonquil Hemming, Tracey Tomlinson and his mum Jancis Tulloch, who was herself a very highly regarded eventer. I asked Tom where his inspiration for riding came from and he told me that his house is full of pictures of riders and horses; I sense that his mum and dad might be largely responsible for this!
I managed to snatch a word or two with Tom’s mum and coach, Jancis. She told me that Tom did a very good job at Brandhall, as he was dealing with three issues during the competition. Firstly he had to go clear in the cross-country to impress the selectors of the British junior team; secondly he had to do well in the competition, so he could not just take an age ensuring his round was faultless; and thirdly he had to remember at all times that his performance was being closely monitored.
A key moment when there may have been a difference of opinion between trainer and rider was the approach to 'The Elephant'. The Elephant was not an escapee from the local zoo or an unkind nickname given to a local pie-eater, but the name given to the dreaded fence number 10. I have it on good authority that a number of fancied riders found it difficult to complete the cross-country section of the competition and that many of their dreams were ‘squashed’ by the Elephant. ‘Trainer’ mum thought ‘rider’ son should go the long way through the Elephant, but she did then say it was up to Tom. Tom decided to take the short way and popped out of it with no problems at all, much to the delight of all in the Tulloch camp.
It was this type of brave decision-making that led to Tom climbing from 24th out of the 44 competitors after the dressage to 1st after the cross-country. Even close rival and pre-event favourite Isabelle Upton could do nothing to prevent Tom’s win after such an awesome round.
Tom and Spirit VI had one pole down in the show jumping, but that was still enough to clinch a hard-fought victory. Team Tulloch had won by 0:8 of a penalty point and Tom admitted to me that he was very close to a penalty point in terms of time in the show jumping round.
Obviously a champion of Tom’s stature will have to get used to inane articles in magazines, programmes and newspapers. In an effort to prepare him for the glare of the media spotlight, I have compiled a ‘rider profile’.
Name: Thomas Tulloch
Horse: Spirit VI (Sam)
Education: Shrewsbury School and Packwood.
Inspirational figures in my life: My parents.
Most admired current rider: William Fox- Pitt; because he stays calm whatever happens.
Worst moment in career so far: Last year when Sam was injured and I missed the first two trials of the year and was out of selection for the rest of the year.
How upset were you on a scale of 1-10? 8-9 but I pretended I was OK to mum!
Bad falls: None really.
Favourite part of the sport: The cross-country, as it is a real adrenalin-rush. If you make a mistake you could end up with a serious injury!
Favourite Band: Bastille
Favourite Movie: Fast and Furious.
Favourite Food: Spaghetti Bolognaise.
Ideal Holiday: A beach in Spain
Ideal Woman: Emily (mine too – I am hoping not the same one!)
Favourite Film star: Robert Downey Junior
If you weren’t a rider… I would be a footballer (Tom plays for the under-15As up front).
Favourite football team: Chelsea
Player you would like to see join them: Cesc Fabregas
Advice for young riders: Don’t expect it to happen too quickly – hang in there.
We will watch Tom’s progress with great interest. But for now well done and Happy Birthday!
Whilst I was in Ridgemount I bumped into another successful Fourth Form sportsman fresh from his debut for Northants 2ndXI, Charlie Home. Charlie told me that he had enjoyed his debut in a match against the Unicorns, although he had not had much to do other than field. He was proud to have played in a team that included five professionals and he was impressed by how seriously David Willey was talking the game, as he returned from injury and tried to reclaim his place in the first team.
Charlie is lucky enough to be my tutee and with the cricketing advice I am able to offer, there is a good chance he will be an international cricketer one day. Once again I feel it is part of a young sportsman’s training to get used to being interviewed for poor quality publications so:
What is your role in the team? All rounder; I open the batting for the under 15As, bowl and captain the team.
Favourite player: Jimmy Taylor (R 2003-08, England and Nottinghamshire CCC player)
How would you improve the current England team? Pick Jimmy Taylor.
What team would you most like to play for? The Shropshire Gentlemen captained by G Bell.
Who knows more about cricket, Charlie Home or Dad (Ed Home)? Dad just!
Favourite Band: Passenger
Favourite Film: Hangover Part 1
Favourite Food: Fitness is important and so I try to avoid fast food. I love a nice salad!
Ideal woman: Refusal to commit!
Advice to young players: Stay away from the corridor of uncertainty and practise hard.
At this point Charlie had to go and prepare for his RS exam – his favourite subject!!