Sandhurst tug of war team in training
Tug of war's 'had a bad image'
By Ollie Williams
Sandhurst tug of war club are World Club Champions and one of the top British sides. The team say it's no pub sport and requires years of dedication to reach the top.
"It's a long way removed from the pub sport that most people imagine."
So says Simon Mitchinson, one of the 20 or so members who make up the Sandhurst tug of war team.
Simon Mitchinson: 'A lot of strain'
This is definitely no Sunday post-pub romp - they train twice a week as a team, spend more time training as individuals, and run every day of the week in the drive to lose weight.
That's right: lose weight. The traditional image of a tug of war team suggests the heavier you are, the more chance you have of winning. But at a midweek training session in a Sandhurst park, the club's members insist the opposite is the case.
"The idea is to get the heavier men fitter," says Martin, Sandhurst's anchor. It's his job to stand at the back of the eight-man team with the rope thrown over his back, then dig his heels in.
"It's a sport that's had a bad image for many years," he adds. "It's a serious sport and it's weight categorised like boxing. Size is totally irrelevant and a good mix is best."
The rope is fixed to a tree for training
It's not just a question of turning up to the rope either: you need the right kit. Simon talked me through his gear.
"Our tug of war boots are a bit like ice hockey boots but instead of the blade, we've got a thick, flat plate and a metal heel. That helps us dig our heels into the ground.
"Different pullers prefer different kinds of belts, but we all wear one because there's such a lot of strain on the back that you need some support there.
"And our shirts are quite specialist. We try to put rubber panels on to make it as grippy as possible and take the pressure off our hands."
The team train in the evening in the park.
The aim of the game is to move the rope four metres in your direction, which equates to a victory, and it's a game at which Sandhurst are very good.
In September 2006 they won the 560kg World Club Competition, and in the last six years the club's record is impressive. They've won three World Championship gold medals, a European Championship gold medal, four UK Championship gold medals, six National League titles and five National Championship gold medals.
There are England stars in the team too, like Robbie, who says the sport is definitely not just a bunch of blokes pulling a rope.
"That's the biggest make you could ever make if you want to have a go," he tells me.
"You've seen it at carnivals where people just come out of the pub and get on the rope and it's the worst thing they can do.
"If you do it seriously there's always big opportunities. Mine was getting an England shirt - that's what I've done and I'm proud of it."
last updated: 28/09/07