ENGLAND, UK – Lock Tamara Taylor is used to overcoming insurmountable obstacles. She is among a generation of women players who tasted success at the highest level – Taylor was a member of the 2014 World Cup-winning side – with a fraction of the support the men’s game enjoys.
While that is starting to change, Taylor is still eagerly embracing new challenges, and her latest is set to test her mettle to the core.
In the Everest Rugby Challenge, Taylor, alongside fellow rugby stars Lee Mears, Ollie Phillips, Shane Williams, and a host of other players aim to climb Mount Everest and break two world records by playing the highest game of full contact rugby and the highest game of mixed rugby in history – at 6,500 metres.
“I thought: ‘I’m never going to get an opportunity to go somewhere like Everest ever again, so how can I turn down something as amazing as this?” Taylor said, when asked how she got involved.
She added: “It’s for Wooden Spoon, they’re a UK rugby charity helping disadvantaged and disabled children. I’ve been an ambassador for the past couple of years, and I’m hoping to raise £10,000 for them, which would be amazing.”
Training has been ongoing for several months, but Taylor was at a disadvantage right from the start: “I was still recovering from ankle surgery when we started walking, I was still trying to literally get back on my feet.
“More recently we trained at the altitude centre in London. We did a bit of a media thing, me and the other captains, and it was highly competitive, which probably didn’t help because I said to myself: ‘do NOT let the girls down, you’ve gotta stay with them, I don’t care how sick you are, I don’t care that you’re a girl!’
“I put so much pressure on myself throughout so I wouldn’t be the worst loser, and it was last-man standing stuff, pedal on until you can’t pedal any more.”
She continued: “Probably the hardest bit was we did a circuit and passes, and had to run 250 metres as fast as we could, then get on the treadmill on an incline, walking to about 6,000 metres. You’re left panting, trying to suck as much oxygen as you can. All the boys said they really didn’t like that part.”
Adding to the pressure she puts on herself is the fact Taylor is the sole female captain.
Asked whether it added to her weight of responsibilities, she replied: “It’s a massive honour. I want to do my best for my mini-team and the wider team, hopefully leading by example and keeping everyone as motivated as possible. That’s going to be everyone’s job, not just the captain’s.”
The Everest Rugby Challenge isn’t Taylor’s first brush with the great outdoors, as she explained: “Last year, I was a very last-minute replacement for Lee Mears as an international for the Alpine Challenge and we did three peaks in three days. I survived it!
“I think we went up to about 2,000-3,000 metres, so it’s not as high as Everest, but the sense of achievement, looking back at where you’ve come from, it was an amazing feeling.”
There is one niggling concern at the back of her mind facing Everest: “The thing that’s been stressing me out is whether I’ll get altitude sickness or not. I don’t want to let anyone down and I definitely want to make it to the top, compete in the challenge, so that’s my big worry.”
As for the mood of the group, Taylor said: “We’re all excited, and each time we meet, it feels like we are bonding a little bit more. I think that’s what having a big challenge or a common goal does for you.
“It doesn’t matter how you are or where you’re from or what your experience is, you’re all united under this big umbrella of ‘right, we have to pull together and do this’, which is what makes it so exciting, to put a big mishmash of people together and to do something like this”.
The Everest Rugby Challenge runs from from 13 April to 6 May. You can sponsor Tamara Taylor here.
Tamara Taylor’s fundraising page
Wooden Spoon Challenge site
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