This week, thousands of athletes from 71 countries around the world have gathered to test their prowess at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Among them is England squash player James Willstrop, who is playing in the men’s singles and doubles competitions this year. A former world number one, James can also boast of holding a gold medal in compassion, thanks to his vegetarian diet!
We caught up with him ahead of this year’s games in Glasgow.
What inspired you to go vegetarian?
I saw videos of animal slaughter, and it was grotesque. It made me sick that anyone could do that to animals. And then we eat them! I vividly remember hearing The Smiths’ song “Meat Is Murder” playing over this footage, and it was a staggering moment. I was knocked completely off balance. Morrissey’s music has been an inspiration to me, and I am listening to his new album avidly at the moment.
Do you have a favourite pre-game meal?
I love sweet potatoes with hummous and olive oil, smothered in toasted pine nuts. Not always easy to find at an event! And I often succumb to Italian food, which is a good source of carbohydrates for busy athletes. Wholemeal linguine with a vegan Alfredo sauce that we make with nutritional yeast, cashew nuts, oils and onions is a favourite. I also love quinoa. We should talk about post-game meals. That’s where it gets even more interesting!
Many top UK athletes – including boxer David Haye, Olympic cyclist Lizzie Armitstead and free-running champion Tim Shieff – are going vegetarian or vegan. Do you think we’re likely to see more meat-free athletes in the future?
I don’t see why not. It’s undoubtedly a very clever way to eat: cleaner, healthier, safer and friendlier. Everything about a meat-free diet makes absolute sense. It’s just difficult for some people to embrace because, sadly, from childhood, people are told that eating meat is what they must do.
What excites you about the Commonwealth Games?
The atmosphere, the attention our sport gets and the incredible luxuries and privileges you get to enjoy as an athlete in the village. The food hall, of course, is a major centrepiece for thousands of hungry athletes (and Glasgow is looking after vegans). I am very excited about the action, too. The venue we are playing squash at is just excellent. It’s an incredible arena.
This year’s Commonwealth Games are taking place in Glasgow, which was recently named the Most Vegan-Friendly City in the UK. Have you had a chance to try any of its vegan eateries?
I have been in Glasgow briefly and have seen two vegan restaurants close to each other: Mono and the 13th Note. So far, I’ve only had a drink and a bit of soup, but what fantastic places they looked to be. Hopefully, there will be time after the games to see more of the city and explore the vegetarian options.
Other compassionate athletes to watch out for at the Commonwealth Games include vegetarian Olympic cycling medallist Lizzie Armitstead and Indian pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, who has just teamed up with PETA India for an anti-hunting ad.
To learn more about how to follow in James’ footsteps by choosing a fitness-boosting plant-based diet, order our free vegan starter kit today!