“I feel like a new man – I feel like I haven’t actually shown off this new me, and this new technique, and what I’m capable of doing. I feel like I’m a new athlete that needs to win all these new titles. "
Great Britain’s world and European shot put T42 champion Aled Davies feels like a new man. And, by his own admission, he looks like one too.
For four intensive months last year, after the IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain, where he clinched double gold in front of jubilant home crowd, Davies was a man on a mission.
Seeking a new direction and believing that he had not yet fulfilled his true potential, Davies approached former Welsh national shot put champion Ryan Spencer-Jones and asked if he would become his coach. Spencer-Jones agreed - on one condition. Davies had to lose at least four stone (25.4kg) in weight.
“Ryan wanted to rebuild me, he said I was too big,” explained Davies. “I throw a six kilo shot put, not the able bodied weight of 7.26kg, so he said I didn’t need to be as big as I was, and he was right.
“I actually lost just over five stone altogether and I’ve put a stone back on in muscle. Between the end of the European Championships and Christmas that’s all we concentrated on – conditioning and getting my body to the right place.”
Now, as he heads to Berlin, Germany, for the Allianz supported IPC Athletics Grand Prix on 19-21 June, Davies knows that the hours spent in the gym pedalling a bike, the early morning fasting sessions – training before breakfast - the sweat and the hard work have paid off.
“It’s been working really well,” he admitted. “It was difficult, but I stuck to it and put all my faith in Ryan. He’s a great coach and he’s been right so far. It was a gruelling process, there were some moody days where I just wanted to eat and get back out there and lift weights and throw, but the wait has been worth it.”
In February, the Welshman threw a new world record 15.93m at the British Indoor Championships in Sheffield, and followed that up less than 10 days later at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai, UAE with an impressive 15.92m. He added 18 centimetres on to his own discus T42 world record at the same meeting, throwing 48.87m.
Then at the end of May in Bedford, Great Britain, Davies threw the shot put an amazing 15.97m, which would have been a world record had the event been sanctioned. Still, he knows there’s plenty more to come.
“We came out to Dubai just to see where we were at – we knew that we could perform at the indoors but we wanted to show the world as well and also get an IPC ratified distance,” said Davies.
“To be honest I am a bit frustrated – in training I know I can throw 16 metres, I’m creeping towards it slowly and I know it’s going to come, I just have to be patient.”
The 24-year-old will take on both the shot put and discus in Berlin this weekend – and as the reigning T42 world champion and world record holder in both events, he is determined to stay at the top.
For Davies’ shot put aspirations – the event he aims to participate in at next year’s Rio Paralympic Games - that means targeting the 16 metre mark.
“This is the biggest event of the year for me before the World Championships. This will be my main event and my last competitive one before I go back in to a heavy block of training and rebuild towards Doha. This is where I’m hoping to deliver the best that I’ve got," he said.
“It would be good to go over 16 metres this weekend in Berlin. I know it is going to be a competitive event.
“By next year I’d love to be chasing that 17 metre mark but at the moment if I can come out on a really bad day and still throw 15 metres then we are in a good place.”
“I know that when it comes to the major events, especially the Paralympic Games, a lot of the guys who are over in Asia – the guys that we don’t see that often – they will come out and they will perform big. I know as Rio gets closer that gap between first, second and third won’t be that much. I just need to make sure that I don’t lose that top spot. I want to make sure you can’t just rock up and throw a world leading throw. That’s where I want to take the event.”
In the meantime, Davies is relishing the chance to show the world just how much he has changed – and improved – over the last few months.
“I feel like a new man – I feel like I haven’t actually shown off this new me, and this new technique, and what I’m capable of doing. I feel like I’m a new athlete that needs to win all these new titles.
“I’m not sure what I’m capable of doing yet which is exciting. I want to get out there, get experience against the best in the world, show them what I’m doing - and see what they are up to as well.”
For Davies, it is clear becoming a new man brings on a new lease of life as well.
Around 400 athletes from 40 countries will take part in Berlin, an event that will give a good indicator of form ahead of October’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Rights free images
On Saturday, a number of rights free images will be available from the Berlin Grand Prix from Getty Images.
Free broadcast footage
On Saturday IPC Athletics will be producing the following package available free-of-charge to all broadcasters which will include race footage and athlete interviews:
• 1 x ready to broadcast piece with English and German voiceover (around 5 min)
• 1 x newsfeed (around 5 min)
To receive the footage please e-email, IPC Broadcast Manager Jose Manuel Dominguez at [email protected] Requests for broadcast interviews can also be made.