The recruits for the new series of SAS: Who Dares Wins include a drag queen, a former Olympian who recently fought cancer, and two sisters.
Twenty-five men and women will face a series of gruelling challenges in the Channel 4 reality show, which puts hopefuls to the test in a bid to see if they are worthy of a place in the Special Forces.
The fifth series of the popular programme, overseen by chief instructor and former soldier Ant Middleton and his team of directing staff, will see the recruits taken to a remote Scottish island and put through what is billed as the show’s “toughest, most unforgiving selection course yet” thanks to its rugged coastline, volatile weather and harsh landscapes.
In addition to the particularly tough terrain, the recruits must also face the new challenge of operating on the seas around the Highlands – the birthplace of the founder of the SAS, David Stirling.
Among the recruits is Mark, a 31-year-old marketing manager from London who performs as a drag queen under the name Cybil War.
Mark, who moved to New York in 2014 for his job, said he was inspired to take part in the series by his father, who was in the SAS.
He added: “Watching the first four series of the show it just became my favourite show and when you’re sat at home watching it you think, ‘I could do that,’ so I thought well… I’d better prove it then.”
Bethany, 27, and Elouise, 26, are sisters from Cornwall who both compete in CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting challenges.
Elouise, a solicitor, signed up after seeing Bethany, an art teacher who has struggled with mental health and weight problems, take the plunge.
“My sister initially applied for the course and I have always watched it on TV and wanted to have a go myself,” she said.
“I love a challenge and I think that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Not much fazes me and I am such an adrenaline junkie so tasks like abseiling really excite me.”
Bethany added: “I wanted to prove to my family and myself that after my mental health struggles with bipolar disorder, I’m OK now and I can not only cope with the stresses in competing in a sport and everyday life, but I can take on one of the most stressful and challenging courses and come out the other side just as mentally strong as before.”
Carla, 40, is a business development manager who competed at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 as a Team GB rower.
But being diagnosed with triple negative invasive breast cancer in October 2018 spurred her on to join the series because she “needed a goal beyond cancer”.
She said: “Cancer consumes your whole world – your time, the way people interact with you, your mood, your mental health, your physical well-being, your get up and go… all I wanted was to get back to pre-chemo Carla as quickly as possible.
“Whilst going through chemo and watching the last series of SAS: Who Dares Wins, a particular scene jumped out at me, where one of the female recruits dived under the ice cold water and all I could think was ‘if I can get through this treatment and wearing the ice cap through chemotherapy (to help keep my hair), I could do that.’
“I set myself a goal that night to become an SAS: Who Dares Wins recruit, and I’d chip away week by week, treatment by treatment, training when able, in order to reach that goal.
“Turns out that was the best decision ever, it aided my recovery no end and has given me one of the best experiences of my life.”
Other recruits include a fitness trainer and former grime MC, a part-time stunt performer, a PhD student and a postman.
Another new addition to the series comes in the form of directing staff member Jay Morton, who spent a decade in the SAS before leaving active duty just over a year ago.
He is placed undercover among the recruits to keep an eye on them.
SAS: Who Dares Wins starts on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sunday.