British champ ready for virtual shot put showdown

LONDON (Reuters) - World sport may have ground to a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic but 160 athletes will take part in a virtual shot put competition on Saturday.

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One of them, British champion Sophie McKinna, has been hard at work in her back garden.

Using a portable circle and feedback from her coach via a video link, McKinna says that she has been able to train pretty much as normal, despite the country being in lockdown.

“”I’ve got my portable circle that I put down and throw in,” said McKinna, whose personal best is 17.97 metres.

“I’m quite positive mentally, because I can still train. If I couldn’t it would be a different story.”

This weekend’s Valhalla Virtual Shot Put Competition will include an elite head-to-head as McKinna and British men’s champion Scott Lincoln take on top under-20 athletes Lewis Byng and Serena Vincent, with that duel to be streamed live.

“It will be like a normal competition, we don’t know when we will be able to compete again so this is like a mock-up,” she said. “It will be a bit of fun.”

Entries for the event, backed by athletic equipment supplier Neuff, have come from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa and Costa Rica with throwers ranging from under 13s to over 70s.

And if you don’t have a shot? No problem.

“There are so many athletes who don’t have their own implements,” former discus thrower Paul Wilson, who runs the Valhalla Throws Academy and thought up the virtual event, says.

“What I have suggested to these people is, just throw a tin of beans or, if you’re in a park, find a rock!”

Participants can throw at any time of day on May 2 but the elite competition will start at 1300 GMT.

Vinco Sport will stream the action livehere

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar