Putting athletes on right path

Former Olympic athlete Tom Hudson, from Sheffield, who spearheaded the development of sports scholarships and was inducted into the 'hall of fame' at Bath University
Former Olympic athlete Tom Hudson, from Sheffield, who spearheaded the development of sports scholarships and was inducted into the 'hall of fame' at Bath University
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Britain’s young athletes of today have much to thank Dr Tom Hudson for.

Before the former Olympic pentathlete began his work setting up the country’s first sports scholarships, it was almost impossible for promising talents to compete at the highest level while achieving academically.

Sheffield-born Tom’s scholarship model has since been replicated at universities around the country - and to recognise his leading role, the sportsman has now been inducted into a special hall of fame.

Tom, aged 79, was born in Hillsborough and showed promise in rowing, swimming, boxing and cricket, representing his county in water polo before joining the Royal Horse Guards, where he saw active service in Cyprus.

Being in the guards meant Tom could train on horseback for the pentathlon. He represented Great Britain at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, reaching fourth place.

After leaving the military he returned to his home city and captained the Sheffield Dolphins water polo team.

Then, following a spell as director of sport at Swansea University, he took up the same post at Bath University in 1971.

In Bath he started a set of sports scholarships – the first of their kind in this country. The approach was a success and soon gathered momentum.

Tom’s wife Jan - whom he married in the early 1960s after they met as neighbours in Hillsborough - said the scholarships have ‘helped considerably’.

“We live in another world now, where young athletes can get money from elsewhere, which they couldn’t in the 1970s,” she added.

Away from the university, Tom was fitness coach at Llanelli RFC in Wales when, in 1972, they became the first club side ever to beat New Zealand’s All Blacks.

He then performed the same role for Bath Rugby in the 1980s.

Co-writing a then-unique guide to fitness for referees and coaching in Romania were other additions to Tom’s CV before his retirement in 1992.

Last week Tom and Jan, who have a son, Andrew, 50, attended a ceremony where Tom was inducted into Bath University’s Hall of Fame for Sport. Jan said: “It was lovely- the honour meant so much to him.”