Whether you think of it as the sport of kings or the stuff Jilly Cooper books are made of, polo is about much more than princes and ponies, and no one knows that better than Captain of the England Polo Team, Mark Tomlinson.
You just played in the Audi International Polo Series – how did it go?
As a day it was very successful, but we lost the game which wasn’t ideal – you never want to lose a match wearing an England shirt! Considering the recent weather though, we were lucky to play at all!
Polo is a pretty intense sport – how do you train for it?
If you are playing at the top level you have to be fit – it’s quite physical so you need to do a lot of cardio so that you are not always out of breath. Polo also puts quite a high impact on the body and your back in particular, so stretching and Pilates are excellent for flexibility; I do a lot of Pilates.
You have grown up with horses … how old were you when you started playing polo?
I started riding when I was about four or five and played my first match when I was seven, so I have been playing all my life. With The Pony Club and junior leagues you can start at a young age – in Argentina they start almost before they can walk!
Is it all about polo for you, or horses in general?
I do a bit of hunting and I used to do a little three-day eventing as an amateur. Now it’s mainly about polo and breeding and training the horses. It isn’t just about the game itself – there are lots of other sides to it.
That must be very rewarding?
Yes, we are lucky enough to have inherited a polo pony breed from my grandfather which isn’t very common in England – it’s more usual in Argentina, which is really the home of polo.
Do you have a favourite sporting moment?
Playing for England any time is a favourite moment – not just the first time – you have to pinch yourself every time you put on the shirt. Winning the Gold Cup in 2003 and playing in the Argentine Open were favourite moments as well
You must have met some pretty exciting people – anyone you were star-struck by?
I am a real sports fan in general, and I was lucky enough to be in Sydney during the Rugby World Cup and got to meet the players when they won, so it was pretty special to be a small part of that!
Polo has a certain errr … romance around it that Jilly Cooper is probably largely responsible for … is the real thing as glamorous as she makes out?
I haven’t actually read them! I probably should … there is definitely a side to polo that is glamorous but for me as a professional that’s about 10 percent of it – it’s a job, I think the glamorous side is more for the spectators than the players, although I am sure there are certain things that go on …
But you wouldn’t know anything about that I’m sure …
No, of course not.
You travel a lot … what has been your favourite location so far?
Argentina is where I spend most of my time – that’s the place to go to play top polo in the winter, but it’s amazing how many places polo takes you – places you never would think – Sri Lanka, Thailand – it’s a great way to see the world. For me though, favourites have probably been New Zealand and India.
You must have some down-time – what do you do to relax?
I love watching other sports on TV, and I am not bad in the kitchen – I do a bit of cooking. I also enjoying doing nothing – lying in the sun, on a beach, which is hard to do in the UK at the moment – I am not really one for action packed holidays.
You’re outside in the sunshine all the time – please tell me you are taking care of your skin?!
It’s one thing my girlfriend always bangs on about – that I already look very wrinkly because I don’t ever use anything on my skin. I am useless because I have been brought up in the sun and take for granted that I can ‘take it’ as it were, so she is always buying me moisturisers and sun creams so that I don’t look like a leather bag!
Are you a spa fan?
Yes! Going back to the holiday thing and doing nothing, a spa always helps – there’s nothing better than a spa after a long day riding or skiing or whatever.
Do you have a favourite treatment?
I haven’t tried many – I have a lot of sports massage, and I am up for trying new treatments, but I like the simple things – sitting in the sauna or steam room and the Jacuzzi!
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