Triathlete targets elite level after incredible transformation

Triathlete Cpl Ieuan Hudson in action (Credit: Army Sport Control Board)

Ieuan Hudson has swapped the arm chair for the Armed Forces and he’s never felt better. TASS met a soldier fighting for a future in elite sport.

Not long after leaving school Ieuan Hudson caught up with a few former classmates. He arrived expecting to laugh about the past and left focused only on the future.

“About six months after leaving school I met up with a few mates,” he explained. “The first thing that was said was something along the lines of ‘look at how fat you are, your head has blended into your neck’. It was that moment that I decided I had to do something.”

Ieuan didn’t have a weight problem as a pupil but he was already heavily into gaming. And once school was over it was game on – all day, every day.

“I was quite late in realising the negative effect that gaming was having on my health,” he added. “Whilst in education I would cycle to school as it was only three miles away and that helped to prevent me becoming overweight. When school stopped the cycling stopped and I was gaming at every opportunity.”

Ieuan Hudson is part of the Army Triathlon team (Credit: Army Sports Control Board)

What started out as a hobby swiftly became a passion. Ieuan’s skill meant he was respected within the tight knit gaming community and, at the same time, the hours spent on his console kept a troubled family life at arm’s length.

“I would say gaming has always been a part of my life,” he added. “I had a PlayStation as a kid and I always had some sort of gaming console at home. I started getting ‘serious’ with gaming when I was around 13. At high school all of my friends had consoles and we would socialise online together for long periods of time.

“I lived in a house with my step brother and step sister who were both drug addicts and would steal anything and everything from around the house to sell and buy drugs. I think during those years, gaming was my escape from that world.

“I could plug in my headphones and shut out my home environment. Gaming quickly became my life and I was a very committed player competing at a high level.”

But meeting his old mates was the proverbial game changer. Addicted to his console and stuck in a £3 an hour factory job, Ieuan realised his future lay elsewhere. Inspired by the stories of relatives who’d served in the RAF and determined to ditch his sedentary lifestyle, the newly-focused teenager approached the Army. But what followed was yet another painful wake-up call.

“Before joining the Army, it was very hard to physically prepare myself to meet their entrance test,” explained Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) Lance Corporal Hudson. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and attempted arduous training without any build up.

“To compound this lack of experience I wore terrible trainers and injuries were popping up all over the place. After failing the running part of the Army’s entrance test at my first attempt I researched training and nutrition and developed a smarter physical development plan. I returned six months later and passed – eventually joining the Army in 2013.”

Six years down the line and a story of admirable determination has evolved into a truly remarkable tale of total transformation. Later this year Ieuan will aim to become the first athlete to hold all three Army triathlon/duathlon titles and the TASS-supported soldier is confident he can make history.

“I’m training very hard to try to claim the hat-trick in April but I am sure there are other Army athletes training equally as hard and trying new training methods,” he added. “I have to be confident in my own training as I need to feel fully prepared to win. But anything can happen on race day.”

Ieuan benefits from the Army’s unique partnership with TASS – a link that offers serving soldiers access to – and use of – facilities and expertise earmarked for performance athletes at regional hubs.

“I don’t think I can quantify how beneficial the TASS support is and will be,” he added. “I have started to receive support from the staff at the University of Bath with a shoulder injury that had been hampering me for months. I’m getting better after only three sessions.

“The triathlon coaches at the university have also helped and I now train with some phenomenal athletes who push even harder when I’m in a world of hurt! After all, shared pain is pain halved, right?

“The opportunity to use the gym at Bath is another huge benefit. Walking in there just encourages you to train hard, with all their champions on the walls.

“To think that the same people who helped those athletes achieve greatness are also helping me on my journey now puts a smile on my face every time I go in there.

“I’m enjoying every minute at the university and I’m trying to maximise every opportunity I can.”

Ieuan Hudson with teammates at the Army Sports Awards (Credit: Graeme Main)

As a member of the award-winning Army Triathlon team – the squad won Team of the Year at 2018’s Army awards following yet another victory in the prestigious Interservices event – Ieuan has become a poster boy in his own right. Word is it won’t be long before the Welsh-born athlete has his own picture on the wall at Bath University and his latest accolade supports the view.

Ieuan was named Armed Forces in Wales Sportsman of the Year at a star-studded ceremony before Christmas and he admitted: “It was such a surreal night. I was sitting on the same table as Sam Warburton, chatting about his games against England at the Millennium Stadium, and that’s something I could have never imagined doing!

“Just before they announced the winner of the sporting category they showed a brief video of the finalists. After watching the other two videos I immediately thought ‘well, it’s been a nice evening and I’ve had some free food’.

“The next thing I know I was being called up on stage as the winner. It was a great moment and a great way to end my racing season.”

If 2018 was a breakthrough year for one of triathlon’s rising stars then Ieuan is, typically, focused on the future. Experience has taught him that there’s no point dwelling on the past – however positive recent history might have been – and another big season beckons.

“It is safe to say that my big aim of 2019 is to become an elite triathlete,” he added. “I only really have one race outside of the REME triathlon and Army series this year which is Challenge Salou in Spain.

“It is an early race which will dictate the path I take for the rest of the season. My aim there is to qualify for my elite license. If I can do that then I will be trying to race as often as possible to build up my experience.”

Ieuan Hudson competing (Credit: Army Sports Control Board)