Shot putter Scott Lincoln strikes right balance to hold Tokyo Olympic hopes in palm of his hand

The power to hurl a 16lb shot through the air comes from the legs.

Release: British champion Scott Lincoln in training for the Olympics at his base at the York Sports Centre, University of York, 40 miles from where he lives in Northallerton. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“But with a lot of torque in the back,” explains 27-year-old North Yorkshireman Scott Lincoln

“You twist into it to create torque and then your legs get you out of it.”

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Lincoln should know. He is the best in Britain at the shot put, and has been for some years.

Shot putter Scott Lincoln, pictured at York Sport Centre, University of York (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Eleven times he has been crowned national champion, five times outdoor and six times indoor.

It would have been 12 but last year’s outdoor championships that he won were reduced to the status of mere trials because of the Covid-enforced reduction in the athletics season.

But to quibble over a title here or there would be akin to suggesting Lewis Hamilton doesn’t hold the Formula 1 grid in the palm of his hand.

Lincoln is British shot putting’s dominant force but now is the time to translate that onto the international stage, and what better time than Olympic year.

Eyye-opener: Scott Lincoln has actually found that training less has made him better prepared. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Achieving the qualifying standard to make it to Tokyo is Lincoln’s singular goal for 2021. His personal best is 45 centimetres shy of the distance required to book his seat on the plane to Japan.

With an achievable target in mind most athletes would spend every waking moment of the next four months trying to accomplish it.

But Lincoln is no ordinary athlete.

If anything, he finds practising and thinking less about his sport actually benefits him.

Shot putter Scott Lincoln's PB is 20m65. ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Lincoln only spends 12 hours a week perfecting his craft. For the rest of the working week, Britain’s best can be found on a building site.

“I’m a bricklayer by trade,” he says, proudly.

“I’m out on the tools mostly, but I do a lot of the digger driving now.

“My dad has a building company and I work for him. I used to be full-time but over the last couple of years I’ve gone down to part-time now and am working three days a week.

Shot putter Scott Lincoln is an 11-time British champion (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“I find it good for recovery to be constantly moving because it’s quite physical work as well, it’s good to release the mind, otherwise you’re just sat thinking about throwing all the time.”

The first coronavirus lockdown last March provided Lincoln with an insight into the life of a full-time athlete, and it was one that repelled him.

“It’s been on my mind a lot over the last two years about whether I should go full-time, but last year’s lockdown was a massive eye-opener for me,” Lincoln tells The Yorkshire Post.

“We had three or four weeks where we shut building sites down and I was a full-time athlete for a month or so. I found myself over-thinking everything and it made me realise how desperately I needed a release from throwing.

“I know it was a case of not being able to do anything else anyway, but I just felt that I needed work to take my mind off of things.

“It’s not healthy to be thinking about it all day and all the time. I’d be sat thinking about ways I could improve and it was things I didn’t need to change.

“It must have driven my coach (Paul Wilson) mad. I was asking ‘why can’t we change that’ and he’d be saying ‘you don’t need to change anything’.

“Then I’d go back and say ‘I’ve seen this online and want to try it’, and he’d be constantly saying ‘look you don’t need to change that’.

“For me it was a good eye-opener, because it made me realise that at the moment I don’t want to be a full-time athlete.

“Obviously, if it comes to a point where I’m not improving enough, then that will be the time to think about it properly.”

But he is improving, and by enough distance to convince him that he has found the right work-training balance.

Lincoln has been improving ever since he first hurled the shot at Allertonshire School in Northallerton as a 15-year-old. “I had good banter with my PE teacher, we were both from rugby backgrounds and he said ‘you’re a big meathead, why don’t you give the shot put a go’,” recalls Lincoln.

“After a few throws I was three or four metres further than anyone in the class and I ended up qualifying for the English Schools Championships.

“My school teacher got me in touch with my coach at City of York and we’re still together now and I’ve never looked back.”

It is easy to gauge the progress of a field athlete by the distance they can either throw or jump and to that end, Lincoln’s trajectory has been one of constant upward momentum.

Five years ago he was about a metre shy of selection for the Britain’s Rio Olympic squad but good enough to earn Lottery funding for the first time later that winter.

“I was funded for a year but I had a bit of a dip in performance so they took me straight off it,” says Lincoln, who gets by now without even having sponsors, depending primarily on self-financing and prize money to travel to competitions.

“There was that feeling of pressure when you’re on funding. One minute they’re telling me there’s no pressure, the next I’m told you’ve got to perform or we’ll be dropping you.

“It is a brutal sport in that regards, but you can go one of two ways; it either makes you hungry or it makes you quit, and for me it was all fuel to the fire.”

As well as striking that balance between work and training, he is also looking after himself better outside of both disciplines, seeking the marginal gains that will help him transform a personal best of 20m65 into the qualifying standard of 21m10.

“This year I’ve been focusing more on getting stronger and fitter but also on the nutrition side and recovery,” says Lincoln, who weighs 21st 6lb.

“That’s helping me massively. I’m turning up to sessions fresh and raring to go as opposed to being tired after a week’s graft.

“The thing with throwing is it’s not a young person’s sport. There are freak athletes, but a lot of the time it’s the early 30s when you start doing well. Strength doesn’t come overnight.

“And the athletes who compete in the shot put are getting a lot leaner. I am one of the leaner throwers, but we need to have some sort of body fat because when you take away the body fat you can become very rigid.

“I’ve been doing this for over a decade but I’m still learning every day. It’s one of those sports that is so frustrating. You can be feeling great one day and not throw very well, or you turn up another day feeling sluggish and everything just clicks and you’re trying to piece together why.

“It’s a fine balance between being heavy and strong, but yet quick and athletic. It’s the mixture of all those that result in you throwing far.”

Between now and Olympic selections, Lincoln has 60 throws across 10 events to get the Tokyo standard. He only needs to throw 21m10 once and he will be an automatic selection.

British Athletics have installed a safety net of 20m88. Anyone throwing that consistently also has a shot at making the team.

“I haven’t fully read into the 20m88 rule because I’m so focussed on the 21m10 target,” he says. “It’s an exciting time.”

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