Coached via Skype, Percy proves see­ing is be­liev­ing

Young dis­cus thrower is tear­ing up the record books as he makes it a per­fect 10

The Herald - Herald Sport - - ATHLETICS - DOUG GIL­LON

DIS­CUS is one of the most an­cient ath­let­ics dis­ci­plines, as My­ron’s 500BC Dis­cobo­lus statue tes­ti­fies. It’s also one of the most tech­ni­cal, yet for Nick Percy who re­cently smashed his 10th Scot­tish record, it’s also tech­no­log­i­cally chal­leng­ing.

His coach, Vesteinn Haf­steins­son, lives in Swe­den. Percy is a sec­ond-year stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Ne­braska, yet ev­ery morn­ing he trains un­der the Ice­landic guru’s watch­ful eye, thanks to Skype.

Glas­gow-born, he lists Bears­den as his home town, but the fam­ily home is in Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight, and he has been coached like this since he lived in the vil­lage which pre­dates the Domes­day Book.

“It’s sec­ond na­ture,” he tells me, on Skype from the univer­sity in Lin­coln, “but you have to be very or­gan­ised. I train at 8am, the only time it works for him in Swe­den.

“I grab my phone and stand, set up every­thing, then warm up. We have 4G here, so the im­age is al­ways very clear, no de­lay, al­ways a strong sig­nal, and I have a por­ta­ble bat­tery so my phone never dies. He will watch me throw for an hour, and I then send video.”

Haf­steins­son com­peted in four Olympics and five World cham­pi­onships with­out win­ning a medal, but dur­ing the 12 years he coached Gerd Kan­ter, the Es­to­nian won Olympic gold in Bei­jing and bronze in Lon­don; plus World gold, sil­ver twice, and bronze once.

The long-range ar­range­ment seems to work. A fort­night ago Percy be­came the first Scot be­yond 60 me­tres, with 60.48m, and threw 60.00m in a sub­se­quent round.

Sub­ject to cor­rect doc­u­men­ta­tion it will re­place Angus McInroy’s na­tional record of 58.77. Colin Suther­land reached 59.84 in 1978, which was never rat­i­fied.

Percy be­lieves lack of hands-on coach­ing hin­ders him. “He can only try to ex­plain what I’m do­ing wrong, or what I have to do; can’t demon­strate. I get about 70 per cent of the real-life ex­pe­ri­ence, but I see him about five times a year, for two or three weeks.

“The record was a big shock. The Tues­day be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion I tore my left calf.

“My tech­nique wasn’t very good, with the calf heav­ily strapped. I could barely move my left foot.

“I’ve been chas­ing 60 me­tres for two years. It’s com­fort­ing to do it twice on half a leg.”

It sur­passes his sea­son’s tar­get, while the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fy­ing of 63.00m beck­ons. All this at 21 in an event where the best ma­ture around 30.

He dis­cov­ered the dis­cus al­most by ac­ci­dent. “I tore a ten­don throw­ing the javelin, so tried an­other event.” Now it is fund­ing him on a five-year schol­ar­ship, ma­jor­ing in health, ex­er­cise, and nu­tri­tional sci­ence. Sup­port is boosted by the fact that he also throws the ham­mer.

Ranked fifth in the world, he at­tracted 45 US col­lege of­fers. With Ne­braska charg­ing $750 per credit hour to out-of-state ath­letes, aca­demic costs alone can be $8000 a year.

Percy was a fi­nal­ist (eighth) at the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships and World Youths (seventh), and sil­ver medal­list at the 2013 Euro­pean Juniors. He has been Bri­tish youth cham­pion in dis­cus and ham­mer, and ju­nior cham­pion in the for­mer. He im­proved the Scot­tish ju­nior record three times in one af­ter­noon in win­ning dis­cus sil­ver at the 2011 Com­mon­wealth Youth Games where he also took ham­mer bronze.

In that dis­ci­pline he twice broke the Scot­tish un­der-20 record now held by Ciaran Wright.

He won the English Schools dis­cus, and is UK youth record-holder, as well as set­ting three Scot­tish un­der-20 records in dis­cus and ham­mer. He threw a Ne­braska col­lege ham­mer record last month (67.56m, the UK’s third best this year), and set three Bri­tish un­der 100kg power-lift­ing records for 17-year-olds.

At 6ft 2ins and 122kg, he is seven ki­los heav­ier than in Glas­gow 2014. “I was a skinny guy un­til I started gain­ing weight at 17.”

He be­gan throw­ing at Ryde School with Up­per Chine, but the cir­cle, in the cor­ner of a field, was for the shot – too small for dis­cus.

When he moved to a new coach it in­volved a one-hour ferry trip and three-hour drive both ways, from Bonchurch to south Lon­don and back: “10 hours in­clud­ing the ses­sion, ev­ery Satur­day and Sun­day, and once dur­ing the week – then back in school next day.”

The weights room on the is­land would have 50-year-old men lift­ing. “Then all of a sud­den you are in a weights fa­cil­ity here that costs $4m or $5m.”

HIS­TORY MAKER: Curry’s throw will break Angus McInroy’s 38-year-old Scot­tish na­tional mark when it is fi­nally rat­i­fied

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.