When Scotland’s Commonwealth Youth Games team was unveiled at Stirling in August hammer thrower, Myra Perkins was doubly delighted.
As well as being named in the 44 strong team bound for the Games in Pune, India (11-18 October 2008), the Falkirk 16 year old earned the Athlete of the Month award from Clydesdale Bank, sponsors of the Scottish team.
Being run between April and August the awards are part of Clydesdale Bank’s support programme. Athletes that have demonstrated good performances in the build up to Pune are being nominated for the Athlete of the Month award by the Scottish team’s Sport Team Managers. A Commonwealth Games Scotland judging panel selects each winner who receives a £300 award from Clydesdale Bank, to help with the costs of training. Each winner’s club will also receive £100.
It’s been an amazing summer for Myra who competes for Falkirk Victoria Harriers and is the youngest yet most consistent performer in the Scottish Athletics’ Commonwealth Games Support Squad.
In April’s Scottish Hammer GP Series at Grangemouth, her throw of 48.60m was a personal best and 60cm longer than the Youth Commonwealth Games qualifying standard. Since then she has bettered the qualifying standard on seven occasions.
“I also went to the AAAs under 20 Championships and came away with a silver,” said Myra (pictured above with Steve Reid, Retail Director of Clydesdale Bank). “Then I got a gold in the under 17 AAAs. Those are the UK championships against the best people.”
At the team announcement in Stirling this month Myra believed there was still room for improvement this season, saying, “I’m really proud of the fact I have the Scottish under 17 record and I hope I can push it up even further in the next few weeks.”
Just three days later she did just that with a new Scottish record of 52.02 metres. Her best this season has improved by over four metres from 47.62m.
Myra has surprisingly been a thrower for just two years. Her background, unlikely until you delve into the pasts of better known hammer throwers, is in piano, theatre and Scottish country dance.
“An interesting thing about throwers is a lot used to dance,” she said. “Shirley Webb and Sophie Hitchon (England) both did ballet and I did Scottish Country dancing. I don’t know whether it helps with balance or technique but we all seem to have a dancing background.”
Myra’s athletics career started with sprinting, then as an under-15 athlete she ventured into the world of pentathlon. At the time shot putt and discuss were strong favourites but she was persuaded by her coach to enter Hammer Grand Prix events and it was when competing in Elgin in 2006, that hammer coach Alan Bertram noticed her.
“He asked if I had been invited to the under-15 hammer event at the AAAs the following weekend,” she remembers. “I hadn’t, so Alan made a few phone calls and the following weekend I went down to Birmingham and won bronze.
“None of the English girls knew where I had come from. That was very special because it was the first time I had qualified for the AAAs let alone won a medal there. I think that was when I realised that I had found my event.”
In that first season Myra extended her best throw from 25.60m to 41.44m but the road to her current form has not been without obstacles. As a pupil at Mary Esrkine school in Edinburgh, much time is spent travelling. Not being permitted to use the throwing cage for training at the nearby Grangemouth Athletics Stadium has added to the challenges.
“I’m not allowed to throw at Grangemouth because I’ll make dents in the pitches and the footballers there don’t like the pitch being messed up,” she said. “I train in a mixture of places; in the Borders at Tweedbank, where my coach is based. And we built a circle at home in the field where my mum has horses. There’s no cage at home but we’ve got trees – our neighbours have prize winning sheep so I’ve got to be very careful.”
Along with 43 of Scotland’s best young athletes, Myra will board the plane for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, in just under six week’s time. The Scottish team announced last week comprises 44 athletes from eight sports (athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling) together with 16 support staff. Like Myra, these athletes are looking to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.
“Being selected for the Commonwealth Youth Games is brilliant, something I’ve been thinking about for over a year and everything I’ve been doing has been geared towards this,” she said.
“I’ve got so much pride that I’m going to be able to compete for Scotland in a multi event competition in such a huge competition.
“It’s an honour to be the Athlete of the Month. I’ve had a good season that I’m really proud of.
Congratulating Myra, Steve Reid, Retail Director of Clydesdale Bank said, “Clydesdale Bank is proud to be supporting the Scottish Team at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in October this year.
“Myra is an excellent example of the many young people who have striven for team selection over the summer months and I would like to congratulate her on her many achievements throughout the last year. She is a worthy winner of this month’s Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month award.”
Following the Games, the judging panel will consider performances at Pune to select a Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Games and two runners-up. A further award of £500 and £250 respectively will be awarded with £100 going to the winner’s club.