Name-drop the man, the myth, the legend Elgan Pugh into a conversation with your average bloke on the street, and chances are you’ll be met with a blank stare. But Elgan Pugh, without wanting to sound too much like Ron Burgundy, really is kind of a big deal. Earlier this year, the Welshman won a sixth National Timbersports Championship in a row (the 2020 event was, of course, cancelled due to COVID). In doing so, Pugh cemented his place, once and for all, as Britain’s GOAT wood chopper.
“In doing so, Pugh cemented his place, once and for all, as Britain’s GOAT wood chopper”
Wanting to find out more about Pugh’s ‘process’, his approach to competition and his Timbersports-related plans for the future, I gave the axe-wielding king a call and asked him some questions. You can read these questions, and – more interestingly – the answers to those questions, below.
Hi Elgan. So my first question, and I guess you get asked this a lot as Timbersports is quite niche, is how did you get into Timbersports?
Yep, you’re quite right. I have been asked this question many times. I first saw the sport when I was a young kid, at the Royal Welsh Show. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, watching the axe men compete when I was there with my parents. And I’d go back every year and see them do their thing, so I knew about the sport for a long time but I never really got into the sport until I was 27.
I was at one of these country shows with the wife and kids, and I came across this axe racing team. I started speaking to them and they were like ‘Yeah, come and have a go. Come and do some training with us, see if you like it, and we’ll take it from there’. That’s what I did, and it all started from there really.
What does a training regime for a Timbersports event look like? Do you just practise the disciplines or is there something else going on?
Yeah, so you need to practise the disciplines as much but, of course, it’s not always practical what with the weather, getting the wood, and getting the facilities to do all that. So, instead, there’s often a lot of gym and cardio work involved mixed in with the event training. It’s a bit of a mixture really.
Obviously Timbersports is very physical but is there a mental side to the sport?
The mental side of the competition is a really big part of it. Especially when you go to the big competitions like the World Championships. When there’s a lot of pressure on and, in normal years, a lot of people in the crowd watching you you’ve really got to be able to cope with all that and not let it interfere with what you’ve got to do in the actual events. You have to stay really focused.
Do you enjoy the spectator side of things? Do you enjoy the gladiatorial aspects?
That’s part of why I do it really. The buzz of being in these competitions, and having the crowd out there cheering you on, when you’ve worked hard and trained hard and qualified for these big competitions it can be really quite rewarding. You can see how much the crowd are enjoying it, when you walk out and they cheer you on it’s a great feeling.
Do you have a favourite discipline and, if so, why’s it your favourite?
It’s moved around and changed over the years a bit, to be honest, but I suppose my favourite one still is the springboard really. You have to cut the pockets, put the boards in, climb up. It’s quite a physical event, and probably the most technically demanding one as well.
(In the springboard discipline the aim is to cut through a 27cm log that is mounted on top of a 2.74 metre high pole in the quickest time. Check out the World Record here: World Record Spingboard – Stirling Hart (CAN) // Stuttgart (GER) 2016 // World Championship – YouTube).
So, earlier this year you won your sixth National Championship. Congratulations, by the way. Have you got a particular target in mind for National Championship wins or are you just going to keep on going and see where it takes you?
I’m just going to keep going for as long as I can really. I left the training quite late this year and, obviously, I’m getting older but I’ve got so much experience that it seems silly not to keep on going really.
Do you feel like your experience is an advantage in the competitions?
In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve peaked yet. I’m building year on year from what I’ve learned previously. I’m still in good enough shape to get strong and fit for the sport, and so I think I should be in quite a good position for quite a few years still to come.