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Staffordshire firefighter takes on the world

October 17 2018
A Tamworth firefighter has taken part in the 13th World Firefighters Games in South Korea.

A Tamworth firefighter has taken part in the 13th World Firefighters Games in South Korea.

Richard Mortimer, a member of green watch in Tamworth flew to Chungju last month to represent the UK in the World’s Toughest Firefighter competition at the Games. World Firefighters Games is the international festival which is biennially held to promote world firefighters’ friendship through competition in sport. The event is the festival of harmony and friendship that firefighters all over the world can join and enjoy together regardless of winning or losing.

There were some phenomenal performances from the Koreans and Hong Kong firefighters who were able to make up both lengths of hose simultaneously. It was a demonstration of skill that initially made me think of giving up competition but has made me determined to train even harder for the next World Firefighter Games in 2020 in Denmark.

Firefighter Richard Mortimer

There are 75 sporting events including Track and Field, Soccer and the Toughest Firefighter Alive. The Games attracts around 6,000 participants from 50 countries. To be eligible to take part competitors must be current or retired firefighters or volunteer members of a fire brigade.

The Toughest Firefighter Alive competition is specific to the World Firefighters Games and is carried out in full firefighting kit. It tests competitors in a number of firefighting-specific disciplines.

There are four parts, all carried out in full firefighting kit:

  • The hose run, carrying a breathing apparatus set
  • Obstacle course: competitors are required to carry various pieces of equipment whilst negotiating tunnels and climbing walls up to four metres high
  • Tower: competitors are required to handle and pitch ladders and to carry firefighting equipment up ropes
  • Stair climb: competitors are required to climb to the top of a tower

Spread over a week, the Games are an opportunity for the host nation to showcase its culture as well as its sporting ability. “While I was there I was given the opportunity to get to know a bit more about South Korea,” said Richard. “The Games organizers had put on Cultural Tours for the competitors and their families. This meant that I was introduced to a Buddhist temple carved into the hollow trunk of a tree. You enter on your knees through a small opening, to gaze up at a benevolent, golden Buddha smiling down on you. Lunch was taken seated on the floor at a low table.

“I also had the opportunity to try Korean archery. It differs from the English in the grip and traditional materials of bow construction, although both cultures now use carbon fibre. The martial arts park was hosting a cultural festival of its own and one of the exhibitors invited me for a glass of apple juice. It became obvious really quickly that this particular apple juice had fermented!”

Richard also found himself appearing on Korean national television during his visit. He explains: “In my preparation for the games I had competed in Austria where I met the some of the Korean organisers. On the strength of this I had been invited to be a judge at a local food competition, which I had not realised was going to be televised nationally. There are many jokes about Korean food, but I enjoyed the experience very much. One competitor produced deep fried weeds from his garden in a batter. Maybe my expectations had been low but they were the tastiest weeds I had ever eaten!”

However, the main reason for Richard’s visit was to compete. On the day he came a creditable seventh out of 14 competitors in his age group and was pleased with his performance and is looking forward to the next games in two years’ time. “There were some phenomenal performances from the Koreans and Hong Kong firefighters who were able to make up both lengths of hose simultaneously.” he said. “It was a demonstration of skill that initially made me think of giving up competition but has made me determined to train even harder for the next World Firefighter Games in 2020 in Denmark.”

The medal Richard received is now proudly on display at Tamworth Fire Station on Marlborough Way.