The road to 20m is one that hadn’t been successfully navigated by a British male shot putter since 2012. That was until 26-year-old Scott Lincoln managed it three times in a matter of days last week.
At the Memoriál Josefa Sečkáře, held in Brno, Czech Republic on 28 August, Scott – more commonly known as ‘Scotty’ – went out to 20.18 in round three, only to better that moments later with 20.39 in round four. He then surpassed the barrier again on 30 August at the Podblanická Tretra event, with a 20.01 effort in conditions that were so bad he was forced to wear a trainer on his left foot due to the slippery circle. “I honestly have a bit of a spring in my step and a grin on my face”, he explained – and who can blame him? Scotty is enjoying his best-ever season to date, with more throws over 19m – and now 20m – than ever before.
But it could have been a very different story. Less than 12 months ago, Scotty nearly walked away from the sport for good. “I’ve been through a lot on and off the field in the last few years since my last PB in 2016”, he begins. “Towards the end of 2018, I was sat down during a winter training session. It was pouring with rain and freezing cold. I’d been in the rain all day at work too. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I just sat down, and said to my coach, ‘I’m done’ ”.
Being released from funding and a lack of selection for a number of events that he believed he should have made the team for had led Scotty to believe there was no point in him carrying on in the sport. But his long-term coach Paul Wilson changed his mind, and Scotty became determined to prove a point regarding his loss of funding.
Long time coming! But finally broken 20m with 20.39m on Wednesday in Brno! Onwards and upwards! pic.twitter.com/VJS1nux26K
— scotty lincoln (@shotputtlinco) August 30, 2019
“This year, my mind-set has changed. I’ve grown stronger as a person, and of course we’ve made improvements to my technique to get in to better positions in the circle and use my power to better advantage”. Scotty, and his support network, are now being rewarded for persistence.
Despite his consistent improvement over the last 12 months, Scotty still has to endure the elements during his day job, which he fits in around training. “Until around 6 months ago, I was doing 40 plus hours a week of manual labour on a building site. I’m a bricklayer by trade, but a digger driver by choice!”, he jokes, as he admits the long days make training difficult. Scotty does however confess that he is lucky with his unique employment situation, where he has managed to ‘sweet talk’ his boss in to giving him an extra day off each week – made easier by the fact that his boss is in fact his dad!
With approval from the boss to work less hours, Scotty says that it is now “all steam ahead for 21m”, with the ultimate aim of finding another 71cm to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – an aim he thinks is well within reach. In the next few weeks – after what he hopes is a restful period of lounging by a pool with his feet up – a plan will be made with coach Paul. “There are a few ideas I want to bounce off him, he has some ideas to bounce back off me; we agree a mutual plan…and then we go flat out at it!”
With Sophie McKinna also currently flying the flag for British shot putting, Scotty is one-half of a duo which looks set to forge an exciting future in the sport. “Sophie and I have some great banter, and we have been pushing each other on this year”, he said, when asked how good it will be for British throwing to have two of the best putters the country has ever seen competing in the same era.
“We made a bet at the Halle Throws International this year. There was money on the line, and we both had 23cm to our targets. I must add that I won this bet as I was the first to reach my target which was 20m!” he says proudly. Scott does however go on to say that he thinks Sophie will “smash” the target he had set her at the World Championships in Doha later this month.
It may seem bizarre to some that the best British male shot putter in almost a decade isn’t also competing in this year’s World Championships, which start in less than a month. The reason is that only four British men in history have ever thrown the British Athletics qualification distance of 20.70.
Scotty is pragmatic when asked if he feels this distance is too high: “You need to be pushing 21m at the very least now to be medalling at a world level. There are a record number of men over 22m this year, and the same with 21m, so really 20.70 reflects world distances pretty well. Only four British men have ever thrown 20.70. I guess the main aim now is to make that 5!”.
Scotty hopes that soon he may have some British competition to push him on to 20.70 and beyond – and far from being worried about domestic challengers, he only sees it as a good thing. “A few years back I was lucky in that I had Zane (Duquemin) to chase. I truly believe if he stayed injury free we would both be over 20m now. I’m hoping that now I’ve broken 20m it gives other British throwers the drive to want to beat me. I know that the next couple down in the rankings from me are hungry to beat me, and hopefully that’s what will push the sport on”.
From here, the conversation takes a more serious turn, with the topic of both public and media interest in British throwing somewhat inevitably rearing its head. Despite the fact that Scotty and Sophie are throwing distances not seen in this country for many years, it is no secret that the throwing fraternity in the UK are generally unhappy with the lack of coverage their events receive. “I really don’t know if having Sophie and I on the same stage will get throwing any more coverage. It would be nice if it would, but the main aim for us both is to throw far”.
Scotty doesn’t hold back in his obviously impassioned opinion on the exposure of British field events in general. “My opinion is that we don’t get enough coverage. The BBC would rather show multiple different angles of the same track event, or feature lots of talking in the studio about the pundits’ past success, rather than showing field events. Showing one throw or one jump on TV isn’t good enough”.
He feels having a throwing expert on the panel during major televised events would be a big step forward, and could help increase the interest of the general public in throwing disciplines. “This would really open peoples’ eyes about how technical shot putting is”, he explains. “Male shot putters are big, strong heavy guys, who are also fast and nimble on their feet. There aren’t many other sports like that!”
I’m interested to know what the most successful male shot putter in recent British history thinks should be done to improve the situation and bring throwing in to the mainstream. In his eyes, it all stems down to funding – both in terms of increasing throws-specific events – and allowing more space on teams to travel to championships.
“There are meets available to help throwing in the UK, but it seems to be the same thing year-on-year; we get told that the numbers on teams have to be cut because of a lack of funding. There is potential for the UK to be a great throwing nation, but the way things are going, there is no incentive for throwers. They work your socks off to get selection criteria for events and still are not guaranteed to go”.
Scotty also thinks a fairer spread of funding could be used to organise some showcase throwing events, to capture the public’s imagination. “The atmosphere of street competitions would be guaranteed to get people throwing big PBs. Other countries manage it, so why can’t we try it here?”. Scotty explains that he has in the past heard of people trying to organise events like this, but again due to lack of funding the ideas have dwindled and the events haven’t been possible.
The debate of funding and media interest in throwing is one that will inevitably rumble on and will certainly not reach a conclusion any time soon, so I switch back to the imminent World Championships and ask Scotty for his opinion on the medal winners. “It’s going to be crazy! I can see at least two people going over 22m. I think my prediction is going to be Ryan Crouser, Tom Walsh, Darlan Romani for medals – maybe even in that order”. It will certainly be an exciting clash with potentially some of the biggest throws we have ever witnessed – and for the sake of Scott and other British throwers that can only be a good thing in promoting the event.
How the shot put plays out at the World Championships is yet to be seen. But there is one thing you can be certain of – Britain’s Scott ‘Scotty’ Lincoln will do everything he can to be lining up against the best in Tokyo next year.