“I can’t believe it’s turned out the way it has” How RAF sport led AS1 Luke Pollard to the Commonwealth Games

AS1 Pollard (left) with David Ellis (Credit: Team England)

Air Specialist (Class 1) Luke Pollard is racing for Team England in the Commonwealth Games paratriathlon as a guide for the world number one-ranked vision impaired (PTVI) triathlete David Ellis. He’ll be one of six serving Armed Forces personnel competing or coaching at this year’s Games.

For AS1 Pollard, it’s the latest step on a journey that started when he first stepped into a gym during his early weeks in the service.

He tells his story:

I wouldn’t even be doing triathlon if I hadn’t joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). I do really believe that the RAF values sport as an integral part of their ethos. It’s where I started, did my first training sessions, raced my first race. At first it was just to do something away form work. It all started off as a laugh. I can’t believe it’s turned out the way it has really. If I spoke to myself 10 or 11 years ago there’s no way I’d believe myself.

AS1 Pollard during his early days in the RAF (Credit: Luke Pollard)

I started guiding at the start of 2019 and I’ve been working with Dave [Ellis] most days since. It’s a really good relationship and goes a bit deeper than your usual work colleague. I don’t think we’ve had a bad word to say to each other in the last three years. We’re both very similar personality wise. If I wasn’t guiding him, I’d be asking him to come down to the pub for a pint. I think that level of relationship really does add to our performances.

Before guiding I’d had no involvement in para sport and had been an individual athlete my whole career. What attracted me to it was that team element. I get to work with someone else to share those experiences; the highs and the lows.

We’ve had a great season from the start to now, currently unbeaten. We won at the British Championships earlier this month, our last race before the Commonwealth Games. So there’s nothing more we can do now beyond going through our preparations. The goal is to produce a race I know we’re capable of and to get to that finish line knowing we’ve done all we can. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for us so we just need to give it our all.

The Royal Air Force have been hugely supportive of my guiding. Once they knew the end goals and our ambition they told me “we will support you in whatever manner you or Dave requires”. The RAF recognised our close match in terms of physical ability at the triathlon.

AS1 Pollard (right) and David Ellis (left) have built up a tight relationship that powers them through gruelling races (Credit: Luke Pollard)

It was literally two weeks into my first posting when I first got involved with sport. I still remember walking into that first spin session. Meeting a few of the guys there, they took me under their wing and showed me triathlon. I’m still good friends with them now. I truly believe I wouldn’t be here without the support of everyone. It’s a big community, a big team and I’m still in contact with everyone.

I’m the only RAF representative at the Commonwealth Games this year. I’m proud to represent Team England but also the RAF. It’s an added bit of responsibility for me and I do feel a sense of pride. Everyone you speak to does have a bit of a personal story about, or connection to, the service. I’d love to showcase to the public what the RAF has to offer and how much they do value sport.

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