Dr Tom Hudson: Tributes paid to 'inspirational' Sheffield Olympian involved in one of rugby's greatest shocks

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The leading fitness coach and sports director has been described as a 'formidable force of nature'

An 'inspirational' Olympian from Sheffield who played a part in one of rugby's greatest shocks has sadly died.

Tributes have been paid to Dr Tom Hudson, who was born and bred in Hillsborough and excelled at sports before becoming a renowned fitness coach.

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Dr Tom Hudson, who grew up in Sheffield and competed in the 1956 Olympics before becoming a leading fitness coach and director of sportDr Tom Hudson, who grew up in Sheffield and competed in the 1956 Olympics before becoming a leading fitness coach and director of sport
Dr Tom Hudson, who grew up in Sheffield and competed in the 1956 Olympics before becoming a leading fitness coach and director of sport | Jan Hudson/Sally Murrant

Tom's sporting prowess was clear from a young age, as he made his mark in swimming, cricket and water polo, at which he captained Yorkshire.

His talents helped secure him a place in the Household Cavalry, which he joined aged 17.

From Household Cavalry to the Olympics

It was there he learned to fence, shoot, and ride a horse, with his newly acquired skills earning him a place at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

He did his country proud in the modern pentathlon, helping Britain finish seventh in the team event as he came 28th in the individual competition.

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Dr Tom Hudson on horseback during his time with the Household CavalryDr Tom Hudson on horseback during his time with the Household Cavalry
Dr Tom Hudson on horseback during his time with the Household Cavalry | Jan Hudson/Sally Murrant

After leaving the Household Cavalry in 1959, Tom became a leading fitness coach and developed the sports and physical education programmes at the University of Sheffield and Swansea University.

He joined Llanelli RFC as a fitness coach in 1966, playing his part in the club's greatest period of success, which included their stunning 1972 victory over the All Blacks.

Bath Rugby Hall of Fame

Later, at Bath Rugby, he formed part of the 'famous three' coaching team with Jack Rowell and Dave Robson during the club's 'golden' period in the 1980s, and in 2018 he was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame.

But it was at the University of Bath, where he served as the first director of sport from 1971 to 1992, that Tom had the biggest impact.

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He transformed the sporting facilities there, helped students excel at the highest level of their chosen sports and established the first sports scholarships in England.

Stephen Baddeley, the university's current director of sport, called Tom a 'formidable force of nature' who was the 'inspirational driving force for sport at the university'.

Tom also helped change the world of football, with FIFA introducing fitness testing for match officials following a groundbreaking guide which he had co-written in 1978 with the leading Welsh referee Clive Thomas.

'Everything had to be the best'

Tom's proud wife Jan Hudson said: "He was so strong-willed. Throughout his life everything had to be the best, whether he was competing, coaching or introducing changes at the university.

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"He was Sheffield born and bred, and as a boy he was the best runner and swimmer in the city for his age.

"At that time there was a pool on practically every other street and he'd swum or played waterpolo in nearly all of them.

"He never forgot what others did to help him, including staff at Morley Street School, which he attended, his parents, and his older sister Mary, who sewed all his sporting gear for him."

Tom had two children with Jan - their daughter, Tracy, who sadly died of leukaemia aged just 12, and their son, Andrew, who survives him.

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He suffered a stroke more than 20 years ago which left him paralysed down his right side, but being the man he was he taught himself to walk again.

He sadly died on Tuesday, December 19, four days after his 88th birthday.

His funeral will take place at Haycombe Cemetery’s Top Chapel on Thursday, January 18 at 2.30pm. The reception will be held at 3.30pm in the Claverton Rooms on the University of Bath campus.

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