As a former Cadet Flight Sergeant on 1921 (Lewisham) Squadron, Tom Norton knows a thing or two about flying high. Holder of a Gold Duke of Edinburghâ€™s Award, gliding scholarship, and years of leadership and training experience prepared him to take up the offer of a place at university.
But now, heâ€™s gone a step further â€“ making the Great Britain Squad for the forthcoming World Cup competition. This is the kind of story we look for: a cadet going on to great things. But what makes Tomâ€™s story unusual is the sport heâ€™s taken up.
After seeing the event advertised at Freshersâ€™ Week, Tom joined up mainly â€œfor a laugh. I mean, who doesnâ€™t want to play Quidditch? But it soon became quite serious, and I started getting quite interestedâ€.
Now, heâ€™s a regular starter for the Keele University team â€“ Avada Keeledavra â€“ and is the youngest starting player (heâ€™s a Chaser, if you were wondering) for the GB team that is flying out to Canada in Summer 2014. In January approximately 200 players went to the UK tryouts, anyone and everyone was welcome. After a series of training weekends, this was trimmed to a 40 person development squad, with the final 21 players selected this month.
The tournament will be governed by the International Quidditch Associationâ€™s rule book, which is based on a muggleâ€™s interpretation of the game. Whilst running around on broomsticks, the players will stay as close to the fictional game as possible. The infamous flying â€˜snitchâ€™ will be played by a neutral player dressed in yellow with a tennis ball in his waistband and â€˜Beatersâ€™ will throwing dodge balls at their opponents in an attempt to knock them off their brooms.
â€œItâ€™s great funâ€ says Tom, â€œand we donâ€™t take ourselves too seriously. But Iâ€™m really proud to represent GB â€“ and weâ€™re going there to try and winâ€.
Although this is one of the more unusual opportunities for ex-cadets of the Squadron, it certainly comes as no surprise. Ambition, courage, adventure â€“ and obviously, a good aerial technique and head for heights are clearly core cadet attributes. Who knows â€“ perhaps a Wing, Region or Corps Quidditch match is not far off? We wish Tom, and the rest of the team, the very best of luck as they travel this summer.