The RailSport Games returned to the East Midlands for the first time in 17 years to give staff from across the sector the chance to take home gold in their chosen sport.
Hundreds of challengers arrived at Loughborough University on 8 July to take part in the 24th annual RailSport Games. It is the first time the Games have been held in the East Midlands since 2000 when it was hosted in Nottingham.
Loughborough University’s sporting facilities are world- renowned and a popular training base for many of Britain’s elite athletes.
Twelve sports were held throughout the two-day event, with organisations such as Irish Rail, Network Rail, Hitachi and East Midlands Trains among the winners.
Thanks to RailSport sponsors Keltbray, Amtrain, Samaritans, TXM Recruit, RSSB, TBF, Panasonic Business, Dr Zak’s, Custom Clothing, Hitachi Rail, Network Rail, HS2 and One You.
IRISH RAIL DOES THE DOUBLE
Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) returned to RailSport hoping to emulate their successful run to the 6-a-side title last year. The team proved to be a dominant force in the competition once again, coming away with both the 6-a-side and 5-a-side crowns in 2017.
Having beaten the GWR Allstars to successfully retain their title, Irish Rail went on to do the double, toppling last year’s runners up, Lucchini Unipart Rail, 5-3 to win the 5-a-side competition as well.
Last year’s 6-a-side final between Irish Rail and Keolis Amey Docklands ended 2-1 and it was just as close this time around, with Irish Rail again winning by a one-goal margin (4-3).
In the 5-a-side competition, Irish Rail made it to the final with wins over RSSB, TES, Arriva and Network Rail. The tense final was 2-2 at half time, but Irish Rail pulled away in the second half, scoring three unanswered goals to beat the same team that dismantled them 4-2 in the group stage.
Train driver Trevor Hall was part of the 18-strong Irish Rail squad that made the journey over from Dublin. The team set off on a ferry from Dublin Port bound for Holyhead, Wales, on the Friday morning before the competition began, then caught three different trains and a bus to get to Loughborough University’s campus.
Says Trevor, ‘It’s been good mixing with the lads, some of them I remember from last year and some of which are very good players.’
Irish Rail’s chief executive, David Franks, praised his colleagues, ‘The Irish teams were absolutely delighted to win both the under 35 and over 35 football tournaments, particularly the over 35s who successfully retained the title they won last year.
‘The teams would like to congratulate Rail Media, the referees and everyone involved for organising a super tournament in Loughborough. They will be back next year to defend both titles.’
Sixteen teams took part in this year’s football tournament. A number of teams from the 2016 competition returned to better their result, including Northern Rail, whose teams were beaten semi-finalists in both the 5-a-side and 6-a-side competitions.
David Dawood, who works for Northern Rail at Deansgate station in Manchester, has been coming to RailSport for the last 15 years and has competed in both the 5-a-side and 6-a-side competitions. Since he’s been competing, his Northern Rail team have won the 5-a-side competition three times and the six-a-side competition once. Northern Rail matched their semi-final appearance last year in the 6-a-side and David said he was confident the team would be back next year to try and go one better.
Sammy Hudson of Jacobs Engineering was part of a six-man 5-a-side team from Birmingham. He said, ‘We all love football, so we want to be here to play but also to take part in events like this and represent Jacobs. It’s nice to be involved. It’s been very good fun so far – and hot! For us it’s our first one, but I think we will do it again.’
Andrew Midgley, managing director of TXM Recruit – a sponsor of this year’s event – entered a 5-a-side team for the first time this year. He said, ‘This event’s good for team building, getting some of the guys together at the weekend, but also to come and enjoy it and see some of our customers in a social environment.
‘We’re looking to do a little bit more in terms of sponsorship of events and engaging with customers – and also the lads love their football so it’s a good opportunity to get them together.’
TENNIS AND NETBALL MAKE WELCOME RETURN
Several sports made a triumphant return to the RailSport Games in 2017.
Among them was netball, which organisers hope will experience a resurgence among the rail industry community following this year’s tournament.
The competition was won by East Midlands Trains (EMT), which also entered teams in the football and rounders competitions.
‘Our netball team came together for the first time on the day of the games so we are extremely proud to have taken the gold medal,’ said Lisa Angus, head of major projects at EMT.
‘The games were played with a great competitive spirit and we had fun along the way, so thank you to all the teams that took part, especially Unipart Rail who kindly swapped a fixture with us.
‘We really enjoyed the games, and will return again next year.’
The tennis competition may not have been played on the immaculate grass courts of SW19, but it did have Loughborough’s impressive indoor tennis centre. It was the first time tennis has been included in the RailSport Games lineup since 2005.
Network Rail’s Nick Sandham won gold in the mixed singles event, beating Eleanor Page in the final, before losing out to Eleanor and her partner Alan Wilkinson to take silver in the doubles alongside partner Gill Westwood.
With tennis back in the Games, there could be an opportunity for Great Britain to put together a team for the 2019 USIC tennis championships, having fielded competitors for the previous championships in Nuremberg in 2015.
‘I knew it was a great venue and one of the best tennis venues in the UK,’ said Nick, who has been playing tennis since he was 10 years old.
Based in York, Nick is head of communications for the London North Eastern and East Midlands route. The evening before RailSport, Nick had been talking to the media about the £200 million remodelling of Derby station.
In between matches, Nick talked about what he enjoys about his role off the court. ‘The opportunity for us to tell people about the story of improving the railway is massive,’ said Nick.
Around the corner from the tennis centre, the badminton singles was won by Olly Chalk from Chiltern Railways, with Network Rail’s Dan Bourne and Shuren Suthanthiran finishing in second and third, respectively. The doubles title was won by Dan Bourne and Shuren Suthanthiran with Thales’ Malcolm Leadbeater and Dean Carmichael (who was replaced by Olly Chalk part way through due to injury) taking silver and Tarmac’s Paven Prakesh and Giani Modha the bronze.
PUSHED TO THE LIMIT
Hundreds ran themselves ragged under the blazing sun over the two-day event, but PRB Consulting’s David Greenwell ran further than any of the weekend’s competitors.
Starting with the half marathon at 10am, David returned in time for the start of the 5km course and later completed the 10km course on his own.
‘I wanted to set myself a challenge,’ said the technical head of rail compliance, who raised £400 for Macmillan Cancer Support in the process. ‘I saw an advert months ago for the Games and I wanted to do all three, but I talked myself out. Then I went to Railtex and saw Lianne [Rail Media’s head of events], asked if I could do all three and that was it.’
David, 54, said he has never completed an official marathon but has previously conquered the 100km (62 mile) London 2 Brighton Challenge.
A keen runner who travels the country with work, David crossed the finish line in third place in the half marathon, second place in the 5k and – unsurprisingly – was at the back of the pack in the 10k.
Overall, dozens of runners laced up their trainers to take in the sights and sounds of Loughborough’s 440-acre campus across the various distances.
Congratulations go to David Morris and Fleur Cox, who finished the half marathon in first place in their respective genders. Also to Peter Mallison and Sarah Gill, who came first in the 10km, and to Sam Bacon and Tara Watson in the 5km.
PEDAL TO THE METAL
Cycling events proved to be a big draw for competitors signing up to this year’s championships.
Three different length routes were available in the cycling sportive event: 65km, 100km and 160km.
David Nicholl from Thales clocked the fastest time on the short course, completing the route in just under two hours and 26 minutes.
The fastest overall time in the standard sportive (100km) was recorded by Chris Mollison from Keltbray who completed the course in just over three hours and 45 minutes, averaging a speed of 26.64 km/h.
The fastest time over the epic distance was clocked by Tom Corbett at just over six hours and two minutes, followed by Kevin Norman from Abellio Greater Anglia and Dave Meredith from East Midlands Trains.
The RailSport triathlon included a 400m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run – half the distance of an Olympic triathlon. Sam Bacon came first in the men’s side, with Sarah Tomlinson coming top of the time sheet on the women’s.
SCRUMMAGING IN SOLIDARITY
A charity exhibition match at the end of the first day’s competition contested between a combined BTP and Metropolitan Police (Met) team and the Railway Barbarians helped raise more than £3,000 to support victims of terror.
The match, which was sponsored by Panasonic Business, was organised to show solidarity for colleagues caught up in the Manchester and London terror attacks, and to raise money for the British Red Cross Solidarity Fund.
Detective Sergeant Jason Schweiger from the BTP came up with the idea of putting on an exhibition match after receiving messages of support directed towards the BTP officer who was badly injured during the London Bridge attacks. At the time it was reported that he was a big rugby fan.
The police team included officers from both BTP and the Met while the Railway Barbarians was a combined squad made up of players from the Railway RFC and the Celtic Rail Barbarians.
BTP has had its own rugby union team since the early 80s and meets to play fixtures several times a year. In recent years, the Railway RFC and Celtic Rail Barbarians have played against one another to raise money for various good causes, but this was the first time they had played together.
One of the men who helped set the match up was Network Rail’s Adrian Suter. For Adrian, who was the duty station manager at London Bridge during the terror attacks in June, the day was an opportunity to put a positive focus on what had been a difficult couple of months.
‘It was terrifying,’ said Adrian. ‘Life-changing experience. Something you’d never want to go through again. One of the most harrowing things I’ve had to go through.’
Celtic Rail Barbarians’ Stewart Ekstrom-Gabb explained why the solidarity and respect shown in rugby was an appropriate way to show support to those affected by the events in London and Manchester. ‘It’s what rugby is all about,’ he said. ‘You can all take the pitch irrespective of ability.’
The match itself was won by the BTP/Met, 22-17. With five minutes to go, the score was locked at 17-17. The deadlock was broken by the BTP/Met captain Sam Powell who scored a try in the last play of the match. A guard of honour was performed as the teams left the pitch.
Stewart said the end result was inconsequential. ‘As long as we are able to raise some money to help those less fortunate than ourselves then it’s been a success.’
To donate to the Red Cross Solidarity Fund visit: www.redcross.org.uk
A VERY BRITISH COMPETITION
Three quintessentially British RailSport events – cricket, rounders and darts – were all back for RailSport 2017.
The rounders winners medals were collected by RailSport newcomers Hitachi, while Sunday’s cricket competition was edged by Rail Media.
Across the campus, the darts singles tournament was won by Merseyrail’s David Hughes, who went on to team up with Gareth Webbe to win in the doubles.
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This article has been edited to clarify the correct winners of the badminton singles and doubles tournaments.