On the morning of the 26th July, Sam joined fellow Paralympians Dave Henson, Libby Clegg and Kare Adenegan to engage with the media at Deloitte Headquarters in London, as ParalympicsGB officially revealed the British Paralympic track and field delegation in Brazil. The Charnwood AC athlete has been selected to compete in the Men’s F35 Shot Put, an event in which he debuted at the IPC 2014 European Championships, finishing 5th overall. Two years later, with greater experience under his belt, he joins a team of 54 men and women, including current Paralympic, World and European champions, who will represent Great Britain over 11 days of athletics competition in Rio de Janeiro. “It is absolutely incredible and sincerely humbling to be chosen by your country, to compete on the biggest stage in your sport”, said Sam, who made his international debut in the T35 100m at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. “I owe this milestone to everyone who’s helped me reach it, family, friends but crucially, my coaches, their investment of time and effort in my development has been phenomenal. My ambition is to repay them and everyone who’s ever assisted us on this journey, by performing to the best of my ability in the final.” When asked about his chances against the rest of the world, having won his first international medal at this year’s European Championships, Sam was optimistic but typically grounded. “Focusing on whether I can be on the podium would be jumping the gun; I would rather concentrate on what I need to do, to give myself the best chance of being on it. That means doing what we’ve been doing in training, shot put is extremely process driven, if I follow the technical process correctly, who knows how far the shot will go.” With an impressive record of personal and season’s bests at major championships in the event, Sam is however confident that he will do himself and his support team justice. “Fortunately, I have a psychological advantage of performing well when it matters but again, I owe that to meticulous planning done by the coaches. Technical work in the circle, as well as the strength and conditioning will be tailored accordingly to ensure we’re ready for the Paralympic final. I honestly can’t wait to get out there and cash in on all the hard work we’ve done this season.” The Men’s F35 Shot Put Final will take place during the evening session on Monday 12th September and will be broadcast live on Channel 4 and More4.
In the humid heat of Doha on Sunday last weekend, the Rugby born athlete threw two lifetime bests of 13.49m and 13.75m in rounds four and five, to finish fifth overall in his debut appearance in field events at the IPC World Championships. He initially struggled in the opening rounds to find the form that helped him claim the British record for F35 Shot Put in May of this year but soon rose to the occasion as the competition reached it climax. "It was like being in a heavyweight title fight, throw after throw, round after round, the level of the competition just grew bigger and bigger," said Sam. "It was the jelly babies I found in my bag before round four certainly helped me focus on the performance I knew I could deliver," he revealed. Sam said he was so taken aback by his own feats, he didn't fully acknowledge at first how outstanding his competitors had been. "I didn't realise what I had been a part of until looking at the results back in the hotel room. Everybody in the final broke 13 metres, which is astonishing considering only three of them in the world, myself included, had thrown that far before arriving in Doha!" The defending European Champion, Russian Alexander El'Min was unable to convert his continental title into global bragging rights, his best effort (13.87m) agonisingly close to the gold winning throw of 14.02 by Iranian Seyed Hosseinipanah. Although he was delighted to have proven his credentials as a championship performer, Sam was disappointed to not capitalise on the opportunity to grab a medal. "In round six, I was high on adrenaline and had a chance to catch the leaders but I think that situation was such an alien one that my technique fell apart," he admitted. "To be only 13cm away from a bronze medal was hard to swallow but in hindsight, it is a solid indication of what could happen for us in Rio next year." Again, as with all of his performances, Sam was eager to thank those who have kept him going in the fight to the top of the podium in Rio next year. "Our team is amazing, calculated and relentless in the pursuit of our goal, my coaches, my family, SportAid and British Athletics are all on the same page and it will pay greater dividends next season". Sam will go into what he calls "hibernation" for a few weeks before returning to training for the 2015-2016 outdoor season, which will begin with domestic competition and the IPC European Championships in Grosetto, Italy.
A grand total of 45 track and field athletes were selected last week by British Athletics to compete in the fast approaching 2015 IPC World Championships in Doha. It may be his third senior level call up for Great Britain but Sam will this time make his world debut in the F35 Shot Put, an event in which he finished 5th at the 2014 European Championships. With the final curtain call for this season on the Qatari horizon, Sam is excited to go head-to-head with the best in the world. Pensive yet optimistic, he said, "Last season was a fantastic stepping stone, we have worked extremely hard and it hasn't been easy to progress but we now stand firmly in the world's top three, I can't believe we're in this position before these Championships.” It will certainly be an exciting end to a long campaign for the Rugby born and bred athlete, who hopes to continue his rise to the top of elite Paralympic athletics with Rio 2016 now less than twelve months away. Noting the crucial role played by others in his quest for a World Championship medal, he said, "All credit must to go to the team in my corner, my coaches, Jim and Tim, British Athletics Futures and my family, without their support and guidance, I wouldn't be in a position to hopefully return from Doha with some hardware. I have prepared as best as I can to perform and now it's time to return on their investment in me." The current European Champion, Alexander El'min of Russia, who extended his own lifetime best from 12.90m to 14.27m this season, is the favourite to take the gold but Sam believes that anything is possible on the day. "We've competed against each other before and it was hard to match his power and technique in Swansea but I'm a different athlete now, I have a lot more experience compared to last year. Nonetheless, I recognise greatness when I see it; he too is surpassing himself this season. He has indeed set the standard high in this event but I'm ready for the challenge." The F35 Shot Put final is the first event to take place on day five of the IPC World Championships and will begin at 0930 local time on the 25th October. Live coverage will be provided by Channel 4 and online via the International Paralympic Committee website.