Savage Discipline - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 12th June 2015

Last month Robbie Savage (Rudiments – centre above) and James Coonan (Elements) rode to success on the Irish Tetrathlon Squad at the UK British Regional Competition in Moreton Morrell. Here his brother Jack (Poetry), no mean tetrathlete himself, takes up the tale…

Tetrathlon is a team competition organised by Pony Clubs for its members and comprises four disciplines: shooting, swimming, cross-country riding andcross country running. Teams consist of four/five members from one pony club competing against teams from rival clubs. In the British Regional Competition held in Moreton Morrell, however, the stakes are much higher as the competitors represent their countries in a Five Nations event where England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales compete over two days in a stern test of character and physical stamina.

The months of gruelling training take place on Sundays with 5:30am rises to allow the tetrathletes to train all day. Intense swimming sessions at dawn are followed by a short break for lunch before committing themselves to the firing range and then running training. The athletes must take personal responsibility for their own training between organised sessions. Preparation for the riding phase takes the form of Hunter trial, Hunter trial, Hunter trial…

The competition begins with the shooting phase in which air pistols are fired at targets from a distance of seven metres. This is followed in the afternoon by the swim, which lasts for three minutes with the challenge to swim as fast and as far as possible in the time allowed. The following day the cross-country riding is followed by a 1500 metres run.

The course in Moreton Morrell was big and strong with tricky combinations. The water complex was the final test of the riding phase as well as the place where the crowds gathered to watch the young jockeys either tumble out of contention beneath the ship fence or continue across the water by way of a narrow fish log and back to dry ground. This riding phase, which is worth 1400 points for a clear round, is the most important event, the one in which the Irish tetrathletes are always exceptionally strong and was no problem for Robbie or James.

Mental strength

The running slipped by, as the athletes all flew through this part of the competition too tired to fully realise what they were experiencing over the 1.5km track. Their minds overcame adversity and fatigue to get over the finish line and the Irish boys’ teams came first, second and sixth. The foremost Irish score was that of Captain Robbie Savage who placed third overall and on the winning team James Coonan (on his first appearance) was also in the rosettes. (As captain Robbie had to give a little speech of thanks to all involved and he remarked that he could not have done it had he not done debating in Clongowes during the year).

The ultimate reward in this competition is to be picked to compete in the Intermediate Competition at the UK National Championships in Bishop Burton in August. This is the next level up as the competition is stronger, and only the top athletes go forward to this event. It usually comprises one senior and one intermediate girls’ and boys’ team. Robbie and his brother Jack will be returning to The UK National Championships in August, where Jack will (hopefully) be competing on the senior team with Robbie in the Intermediate line up.

Robbie has already competed last year on the winning Intermediate Team at the young age of 14. His brother Jack was on the winning team in 2013 with Jack O’Leary (both Poetry). Jack (Savage) also travelled with the Junior Olympic squad to Rome to train with the 2012 Olympic Pentathlon team. Clongowes have had a strong contingent of Tetrathlon athletes over the years on the Irish National Squad including:

  • Will Connors (Rhetoric)
  • Thomas Connolly (Syntax)
  • Brian O’Sullivan (a phenomenal swimmer, whom we hope to see at the Olympics).
  • The Meath Machine, Chris Coakley
  • Ian Brady
  • Conor Ledingham.

We also believe that Elements Prefect, Mr Garry Corcoran’s brother, Colin was a member of the Irish squad.

Jack Savage (Poetry)


Were all that not enough, we can also report that Robbie won the silver medal at the Community games swim on June 7th.

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