In the first-ever celebrity series of SAS: Who Dares Wins, 12 well-known faces are embarking on one of the toughest tests of their lives, to raise money for Stand Up to Cancer.
They’ll be living and surviving together in an unforgiving ex-military base, high in the Chilean Andes.
We caught up with recruit Sam Thompson of Made in Chelsea to find out how he fared.
So Sam why on earth did you want to put yourself at the mercy of some former special forces soldiers?
“How can you not?! I’ve watched bits of it before and it’s something that I could never imagine myself doing. I was at a point in my life where I really, and this sounds so cliché, needed to figure out who I was as a man. People pay a lot of money to do these kinds of experiences to figure out more about themselves and the fact that I had the opportunity; you just can’t turn that down.”
What was going on in your life that you needed to change?
“I had quite a lot of stuff in my life at that point in terms of things that had happened in the past, nothing too serious, just relationship stuff and a few personal issues.
I wanted to show myself what I am capable of. I’ve never put myself in a situation like that before. I’ve been pretty lucky in my life, things have come relatively easy to me compared to many people.
I’ve never really pushed my boundaries to the limit before. I really think that’s a very big part of growing as a person, seeing exactly what your limit is and if you can surpass it. I’ve never done that before. It was just an amazing opportunity and I knew it was going to be really hard as well!”
The show is part of the amazing cause ‘Stand Up to Cancer’, was that another big part of you taking part?
“That’s the thing, sometimes you’re sat there and you’re like, Why the hell am I doing this? So thinking about the charity really does push you over the line, if being trained by the best in the world doesn’t do it for you, then that really will. It’s a horrible disease that impacts us all.
I can’t think of anyone whose family hasn’t been affected in some way by cancer. That’s the thing, we’re doing a TV show but people are out there fighting for their lives, do you know what I mean? I’ve got a really really good relationship with the guys at Stand Up to Cancer.
They’re doing an amazing job and I do a lot of work with them. They are just so dedicated, these guys, they live, eat, and breathe what they do and it makes you realise that not all superheroes wear capes.”
You mentioned you had seen the show before, but how much had you really watched and were you fully aware of what was going to be asked of you?
“I’ve seen bits of the main shows before and if I’m honest with you, it’s absolutely something that I really hate. I hate being organised, being controlled and being shouted at.
That’s why I hated school! There are loads of rules and I was never like a really bad kid, but I would always just get the little rules wrong so I knew that I would struggle doing something like this.”
Ant Middleton always talks about the mental challenges as well as the physical side of the SAS selection course, how would you describe your mental and physical health going into this experience?
“Oh my God! When I went in I had done no running, I went to the gym a little bit, but not that much. I didn’t do any training whatsoever and I probably should have.
I know that a few of the other guys trained a month before. I didn’t quite realise just how physical it was going to be. I always thought to myself I would’ve failed at the physical stuff but I’d be all right on the mental stuff.
That flipped on its head pretty quickly! At the start I thought no one had really done any training or anything like that and we were just going to see what we’re made of.
Apparently, I was the only one who hadn’t done anything! It turns out that everyone had taken it pretty seriously and so when I was on the flight over, I was like, “Oh my God”, everyone told me how many runs they’d been on and even things like how they had broken in the boots we had been given to wear!
I just got mine and forgot about them until we flew out, so obviously, my feet were covered in blisters after the first day! In terms of the mental side, I knew it was going to be hard but you never quite know how hard it’s going to be until you touch down there.”
What were you scared of the most ahead of flying out there?
“I was scared it was going to be like school and really strict. These guys are pretty serious guys and my biggest issue is when I’m nervous or slightly apprehensive about something, I turn to comedy and being a bit of a clown, it’s kind of my safety.
I like positivity and sometimes, I look to positivity and fun in the wrong scenario. I was worried that that was going to happen out there and I think it kind of did!”
On the first day you misheard an order from the DS staff and that led to all the other recruits having to be punished, how did that feel?
“I was so annoyed with myself. I basically told them all to wear the wrong kit and then they all got punished for it. I was thinking how unfair it was on the guys, that just because I got something wrong they’re having to do the work.
When I get angry, I struggle to hold on to my tongue and can’t help having a go, which Ant didn’t appreciate and only made things worse! I know that in some circumstances you need to be like, “I accept that I got it wrong.
I’m going to try to move forward from it”. But the immature part of me comes out and I had to go at Ant. My biggest weakness is that I’m really bad at just accepting failure. If I don’t feel like it’s fair, I will say something where I should just accept it.”
What did you make of Ant and the DS staff?
“You come away from that with so much more respect for them. We had seven days to try and complete, they did it for months and then if they passed they were doing it for real in the military, we were just playing soldier.
You can’t even fathom the machines these guys are. I wish that I had gone in with the mentality that I knew a bit more about them because I probably would’ve shut up a little bit more.”
What was the toughest thing they made you do?
“The hardest thing I think I ever did was carrying this huge log up the mountain. That was just so hard, I nearly passed out, AJ actually did pass out. She was my partner at the time as well, so that was incredibly hard.
There are different types of hard. There’s physically hard and that was the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done.
Then there’s also the mentally hard stuff where it’s just you and the freezing cold, you’re never comfortable ever, you’re sleep-deprived and every muscle in your body aches.
Finding the mental strength to carry on is a battle because you’re actually kind of miserable throughout the whole thing!”
How did you feel when AJ picked you and Jeremy to fight her?
“Oh my God, I sat there and was like, “Why would you not pick her? There’s two girls there. There’s no need to pick me”.
It hurt me because I get it’s men and women doing the show together because we are equals, in this day and age, everyone’s equal. I’m completely down with that.
It still hurt because I’ve been taught growing up that you never hit a woman, you always need to be as much of a gentleman as you can be. So it goes against everything in me, but it’s the nature of the beast.”
Was it nice going through all that with the other celebrities?
“I love the camaraderie, I love kinsman-ship. I love being in a team. That, I suppose, is a really big positive of this experience because it was just so cool to hang out with everyone there.
I mean, you’re shivering half the time, you’re dirty, you stink. But you know what? That’s kind of all right because everyone is in the same boat and we just got each other through it.
I was intimidated by most of them, I mean, half of these guys played sports. One of them won gold medals at the Olympics, one of them won the Champions Leagues, one played rugby for England and I’m a little reality TV kid! But they were all so cool.”
How did you find living in such close proximity to the others?
“It was my favourite bit of the whole show! I love being around new people that I don’t know that are from backgrounds that I am not necessarily familiar with and getting to know people.
I love that. I love social interaction basically, I’m so interested by it and I love forming friendships that you never thought would be formed and just being part of the group, being part of the gang and a team.
What this show’s given me is a chance to meet some people that I never would’ve met otherwise. It’s great to meet people who come from completely different ways of living and parts of the country and stuff like that.
I think it builds into your character as well. I’ve learned a lot from Wayne, I’ve learned a lot from Ben, I’ve learned a lot from Victoria Pendleton, she’s an absolute machine!”