How Olympian Zara Tindall and Her Rugby Star Husband Mike Use Sports to Help Others
The parents, who are unencumbered by royal titles, are just as much at home on the palace balconies as they are in their muddy gear, and they champion new causes close to their sports-loving hearts.
Zara, 39, has joined her fellow equestrian and Olympian mother Princess Anne in backing World Horse Welfare, the charity that supports working horses and those who depend on them. Anne is President while Zara followed in her footsteps to become patron.
She recognizes “you have to care for your equestrian partner,” CEO Roly Owers tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "She knows to her own cost, horses can get injured. Previously she has missed out on major championships because of her horse going lame. She is very driven and able and has a great love of it. The difference from equestrian sport — and she embodies it very well — is that you have to be very driven but you have to be mindful that you've got an equestrian partner that needs taking great care of.”
Mike, a former England rugby international star (he was a member of the World Cup-winning squad in 2003), spent the early summer cycling up steep British peaks helping to raise nearly $1 million for Cure Parkinson’s – something he supports since his own father’s diagnosis with the condition.
“He has stood at the top of the world in one of the most exciting games in the world,” CEO of the charity Will Cook tells PEOPLE.
Tindall is devoted to the fight “because he can see we’re close” to finding a cure, he adds. “He is an absolutely fantastic human being. He's an altruistic, philanthropic, charitable guy. He combines calmness and compassion for others, with his sporting pedigree. And he combines that amazing sporting ability with compassion, calmness, and care for individuals. That is sparked by his love for his father. When he says that his father taught him how to run into brick walls it brings a tear to my eye."
At the Matt Hampson Foundation, which helps young people who have been injured in sport, Mike Tindall is a frank mentor, the charity’s founder tells PEOPLE.
“You can always ask his advice and get a straight answer," Hampson says. “He always talks to me on a level and knows that I'm still a rugby guy and loves that banter and camaraderie and he talks to you just on a level."
Hampson, 35, was injured while training with England's under-21 rugby team in 2005.
"He has been absolutely amazing – he’s such an approachable, nice, normal, down-to-earth guy and we absolutely love having him on board because he genuinely cares about the work that we do and the people we support," he says.
"We try to say to people is what you're going through is difficult and tragic but life does get better and you can have a purpose and you can create a niche for yourself and you can move on with your life," he adds.
Despite marrying into the royal family and the added pressures and protocols that come with that, Tindall hasn't changed.
"He is just the same old Mike," Hampson says. "He is in the media spotlight and that has been thrust upon him. But he uses his profile and his association with Zara to the best of his ability. He wants to help organizations with a bit of a leg up."
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