Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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Paul Dickenson Commentator and Athlete (June 2011)

PAUL DICKENSON
Over 60 British Masters Hammer Champion


What do you love most about Veterans/Masters athletics
" I would like to be able to say the competition but I must admit I am finding the competition is quite tricky.
I like a lot of the training and the camaraderie. I train with Chris Melluish (66), who has been a very good hammer thrower for longer than I have and Jaroslav Hanus (81). neither of them let you  get away with anything, so there is a lot of Mickey taking but  a huge amount of friendship and camaraderie. Everybody is in it, not for the money or anything like. It is pure enjoyment. That is what I love about it."
 You are President of the British Masters Athletics Federation which must be a bit of a boost for you, as they are so keen to keep you as President!
   " It would not be terribly proper of me to say ' Do this or Do that' as President, if I wasn't trying to do it myself.
    ' I just think, whatever it is, I have got to go through exactly the same thing as everybody else does in order to just put myself on the start line as it were, to see what other people face when they are competing and be part of a team as it is a team effort.'
   How did it all begin for you in athletics competition
    " It was in 1964. My PE teacher who turned out to be a very prominent hammer throwing coach, a chap called Carlton Johnson, who eventually coached many international athletes and was National Event coach for a while. He found something that I could do at 14 years of age. It was at the English Schools Championships, which was my first big competition I went to. I won it five time so I was a bit of a precocious young man! Then came back to it again. I retired in 1984 then in 1994 for a brief while I competing towards the end of the 40-45 age group. I thought it would be nice to have a go."
   Regarding competing for Great Britain Paul Dickenson was UK National Champion in 1977 and 1980 but his UK Hammer records came in 1976. On March 26 with 72.36 and May 22nd with 73.20. What stands out for him
    " The second time was a good time to do it as it was in the hot bed of hammer throwing in Russia and I beat a Russian into the bargain. That was in Kiev in 1976 so that was good'
   'Hammer throwing is one of these things that, once you have tried it, you are always looking for that elusive perfect throw. It is a tricky event to do. We are blessed as well as an organisation called the British Hammer Circle which is an extension of a competitive environment, a very friendly place. A  good resource to be able to get coaching from and any advice on hammer throwing.'
   Field events like the hammer do have with recognition in various ways but here Paul Dickenson says
   ' There are one or two people around the country who specifically organise throwing events. There are a lot of guys out there who want to still carry on throwing. A lot of fun Isn't it!"
    Who did he admire most in his event over the years he has thrown.
   ' The best one of all is still Yuriy Sedykh of Russia. Technically, mentally, physically. Just everything about him. He was absolutely top notch. I competed in the 1976 Olympics when he was only 21 and, he beat his coach to the gold medal!
    (Yuriy Sedykh 77.52 and his coach was third Anatoliy Bonderchuck 75.48. Sedykh won the Olympic hammer in 1977 with 77.52 and in 1980 with 81.80 which was a World record throw)
   You are very clear with your work on television. Your delivery and also knowledge on field events is very good. You don't seem to  slip up like other commentators do!
     " It is very kind of you to say so. That is not the feedback I get all the time by the way..
      ' You  have got to remember that when we are commentating we are not actually commentating to people like you or anybody competing in the Alexander Stadium to-day. The majority of people who watch it know very little about the sport.'
   ' I'd like to think I am commentating to my Mother who knew very little about athletics. I try and keep it simple and explain the lighter side of athletics but if, I do see something that is wrong, I will say so. Somebody has got a technique  which I don't think is quite up to scratch or whatever. I am very lucky to do what I do because three people effectively in the whole country do it. I am one of three of 60 odd million.'
   ' I have got to try and be representative of the population at large is, with all due respect, are not practising athletes. The population at large are the non participating people who need to be entertained.
 Your pleasure is because you have got your boot in both camps. You can be with the 'Big Time' as well as competing. That gives you a balance
    " It does, very much so. It puts things in perspective as well because I think there are plenty of people who go on television and pontificate whether it is politics or whatever. I think if I am a practising athlete I am fully justified in saying what I say. People can't turn round and say 'You Don't know what your are talking about because you are not an athlete. I used to be an athlete and therefore I think it qualifies a little bit more for what it is I am paid to do for the BBC".

Alastair Aitken

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