Galloping on a pony at full tilt is a physical challenge at the best of times but doing it while wielding a mallet and knocking a little 3½ inch ball against an enthusiastic opposition trying to stop you is a whole different game!
Polo is clearly not for the feint-hearted at the best of times and so all the more extraordinary that Fran Townend, following crippling injuries is now one of our great polo stars and has just returned from Italy with the England team and come away with a silver medal in the European championships. Fantastic achievement for anyone but extra special for Fran who has the dubious honour of suffering horrible life-changing injuries as she gallantly offered emergency triage to a road crash victim and was then caught up in the subsequent carnage as another vehicle ploughed in.
Faced with an initial dire prognosis it was thanks to her incredible determination, along with help from H4H and the Battle Back Programme, that carried her through the many operations and hurdles that followed and taken her from having a future confined to a wheelchair to now being a topflight polo player.
Many of our supporters will have seen her perform at the recent Rundle Cup polo day at Tidworth, witnessing how, despite the injuries and disability, her amazing ability to successfully compete on a level playing field with her more able-bodied players. What a winner!
From a military, medical professional in 2013, subsequent life in the medical front line to now superstar polo player it was with pride that Team Ethos was able to step in with the charity support that was able to make a difference and enable her to compete in Italy.
So a huge congratulations must go to Fran for not only achieving what medically seemed impossible but also to the many Team Ethos supporters that make such donations to Fran and other veterans possible.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank you and Team Ethos for your very generous support with funding to help me take part in the Federation International Polo (FIP) Ladies European Polo Championships held at La Mimosa Polo Club, Milan, Italy, at the end of last month. Your support has meant that after being nominated for selection to the England Ladies Polo Team, I was able to accept a place on the team, and for the first time in England polo history, a player who qualifies to play para sport has represented the country on an able bodied team.
The funding so kindly given by Team Ethos helped towards transport for my ponies, (who are the real athletes and most important team members,) to Italy, stable them for the week, and take someone with me, to help me look after them. Having my own ponies to play in the international tournament was an incredibly important part of the success of the team, as, through our partnership over the previous months and years, we knew what we would be asking of each other on the field.
Coached by Nina Clarkin, (the worlds best female polo player,) we played league games against Ireland and Italy, making it through to a competitive semi-final against Germany, and on, into the European finals, facing Italy again. This time in unfavourable weather conditions, with torrential rain and thunderstorms. We were unlucky to lose the final by 1/2 a goal, to the host nation. However as European Silver Medalists the England teamqualified to play in the FIP Ladies World Polo Championships, to be held in Argentina in April 2022. Without the support of the sponsors, none of this would have been possible, and as a team we are extremely grateful for your support.