Interview: Malcolm Borwick on his passion for polo

Renowned international polo player and global polo ambassador for Royal Salute, Malcolm Borwick tells us why he is devoted to sharing his love of polo for future generations

Renowned international polo player and global polo ambassador for Royal Salute, Malcolm Borwick

What’s the best thing about playing polo at professional level?
The amazing thing about polo is that it tests every aspect of your physical and mental prowess. The complexity of the game, both technically and tactically, means it’s like playing chess at Mach 5.

What attributes do you need to be a successful polo player?
It’s easy to get more and more frustrated as the game progresses so patience really is a virtue as well as, integrity. In the same way a master blender makes whisky, you need to create harmony within the team. You can then bring your own spin to the game; be a brilliant communicator and offer ideas garnished from years of competing experience, but from a team perspective, that bond of shared respect and friendship is the true essence of a great team.

Polo is steeped in heritage, what role do you play in continuing its legacy?
Polo’s legacy has continued out of respect for the complexity of the sport; you’ve got multiple horses, your teammates – often a mix of ages and gender in one team, you’ve got intricate yet physical tactics and adrenaline pumping and there is always something you could have done better. That’s what keeps you coming back. From a personal perspective, I feel the weight of responsibility of the history of the sport in the UK as my grandmother played in the first ever Ladies Polo Test Match in 1924, and her father was a nine-goal player who played for England. The passion lies deep within.

How do you keep new generations interested in polo?
My generation was the first to truly achieve a recognised professional level in the sport, so we’ve opened a very appealing pathway for new generations coming through. Across the international circuit – from China to the States – sophisticated new polo facilities are being built and are attracting fantastically talented new players bringing their own skill sets to a very modern version of the game. Also, not only is it a thrilling sport to play but it’s equally thrilling to watch. Those moments on the side-lines have become real cult social events.

What is the biggest misconception of polo?
In my experience most people think polo is a British sport, and if not British, then Indian or Argentinian, but actually, its very early origins are from what is now Iran, the very words we use in the sports, such as chukka are of Persian origin. Another is that we do not hit the ball with the small round end of the polo stick, like in croquet. We use the larger surface area. We are not so talented that we can hit a ball at 45 mph with a mallet the size of a golf ball.

Tell us your schedule as a professional polo player?
We’re on the circuit for 11.5 months of the year, playing an average of three matches a week during peak season so there is little respite and a huge requirement to maintain fitness. For players that means daily workouts (lots of pilates and yoga as we get older) as well as riding. We’ll also work with our horses for at least a couple of hours every morning and afternoon.

We need to respect the physical demands of polo in our diet, so during tournaments we will consume foods that are great energy sources. Post-match I always turn to Jaffa Cakes – not just a lovely little biscuit, but a fantastic single source to replenish the nutrients we will have lost during the match. The very best way to toast a great game is always a Royal Salute whisky served as one finger of whisky to one of water.

Tell us about your role as World Polo Ambassador for Royal Salute?
It has been ongoing for 16 years as a truly collaborative relationship. Together we have been opening up the world of polo to new audiences. Playing on the beaches of Hainan Island in China is an experience that really sticks in my mind. A big part of my ambassadorial role is hosting polo clinics. These work at breaking down the perceived barriers around polo and increase understanding and engagement in the sport.

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