ATHLETICS: Sam selected for IPC European Championships

Sam Ruddock in his Great Britain kit after the 2012 Paralympics

Sam Ruddock in his Great Britain kit after the 2012 Paralympics

Rugby shot putter aiming to throw Paralympic qualifying standard

Rugbeian Sam Ruddock has been selected for the F35 Shot Put, as part of a 49-strong Great Britain squad, that will compete at this year’s IPC European Athletics Championships in Grosetto, Italy.

Although the Paralympic Games is firmly in the 26 year old’s sights, he believes this early summer meeting between the continent’s best athletes will be a sumptuous appetiser, before the main course is served in South America.

Sam, who was born with cerebral palsy and is a product of the British Athletics talent identification process, competed in his first Paralympics as a sprinter. After London 2012, he chose to switch disciplines, allowing him to take greater advantage of the speed and power he had developed playing American football at Loughborough University. Since taking up shot put, his rise towards the top has been exceptional but it has not been without trial and tribulation.

“To be selected for the Europeans is a great reward, especially this early in the athletics season,” he said. “I’m extremely happy but also relieved, considering I haven’t had the best start,” the Charnwood AC athlete admits. A season’s best of 12.35m, which he threw at Warwickshire and Leicestershire County Championships last weekend was enough to get him on the plane to Italy.

He is, however, not content with his recent performances. The competition in Grosetto will be tough, so a display similar to that of his record-breaking feats at the World Championships last year is the preferable outcome.

“To throw beyond 13.75m, my current personal best, would be fantastic and it could potentially deliver my first international medal,” said Sam. “A bit of hard earned bling is always a great boost before going back into some strength training!”

The Rugby born and bred athlete finished last season ranked 5th in the world, merely half a metre away from the coveted number one spot.

He believes that to climb higher, he will have to stay relaxed and focus on his own preparations. “The goal in Italy is to produce a Paralympic qualifying standard, so really, as close to 14m as is possible,” he added. “It certainly is possible, my coaches have seen my training improve month on month. We have worked extremely hard, and that needs to continue for us to execute our plans for Rio.”