Thanks to the power of successful prime time TV Kate Staples will probably always be best known for donning lycra briefs, hanging from rings, scaling a climbing wall and wielding a ‘Pugil-Stick’.

For those who don’t remember the original 1990’s incarnation of Gladiators, do not confuse it with the more recent short lived Sky TV version. The two simply don’t compare. Every day for six weeks Birmingham’s vast National Indoor Arena fill with over 7,000 excited fans to watch the filming.

More than 12 million people tuned in each Saturday evening and the Gladiators became household names, heroes and heroines to children and, lets face it, the stuff of fantasy to some adults!

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Almost every school and gym in the land sought special appearances by a Gladiator. So too did large corporations, supermarkets and sports clubs.  They appeared on chat shows and game shows to the Royal Variety Show and Brit Awards. Then there was the ubiquitous merchandising (there wasn’t much without the Gladiators brand attached to it) and their own dedicated monthly magazine.

Being a popular Gladiator in the 90’s was a busy all year round job. Some came and went after a series or two and some have dimmed in the memory. But the likes of: Jet, Lightning, Wolf, Hunter and Kate’s Zodiac are still seared into the national consciousness of several generations.

Gladiator legend & inspiration_2Yet  much else lay behind the ‘Zodiac years’ and there has been plenty more to Kate since. “It’s just a fact that something I did a while ago for five years is how the wider population still remembers me. But it would be churlish to moan. They were great times and being Zodiac has helped more than hindered”, explained Kate.

“Who knows how things would have panned out if I’d been more anonymous and had not experienced those heady whirlwind celebrity years? It was wonderful. If we’d been doing something rather dubious or crass I might not think this way. But we were part of a massively successful family show that inspired many children and adults to get active, improve their fitness and look after themselves, and that is something I’m still very proud of”.

And it is something that still drives Kate to this day.

Before TV fame beckoned Kate worked in sponsorship and events management often taking health, fitness and sports messages to schools with Olympic champions like Adrian Moorhouse and Daley Thompson.

At a scholarship programme for underprivileged children GB pole vaulter and ‘Superstars’ legend Brian Hooper demonstrated his event. Kate remembers, “The kids were fascinated but  daunted by shooting through the air and going upside down with a bendy pole! Driven by  inquisitiveness, a touch of bravado and blind ignorance I had a go, enjoyed it and quite quickly developed some sort of aptitude”.

Pole vault was brand new in Women’s Track & Field and Kate quickly became a pioneer.  Achieving GB honours she broke 42 British records and 12 Commonwealth records.  And although women’s pole vault was taken far more seriously in other countries and backed accordingly, Kate still rose to 8th in the world and was continuing to climb.

But just when things were looking to reach an apex of popularity and success everything changed in the blink of an eye…

The rest of the Kate Staples’ story is covered in Part 2 

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