Athletics: Slim pickings for bulky champion: Edwards retains national shot title but faces struggle to survive

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The Independent Online
PAUL EDWARDS enjoyed a rare opportunity to bask in the limelight at the Birmingham Arena last night when he won his fifth successive AAA indoor shot put title. But the victory did little to ease the financial worries of a man discharged from the RAF during the Gulf War as being unsuitable for service after they were unable to find a uniform to fit him.

During his long spell as Britain's No 1, the 20st Edwards has discovered that people are not interested in supporting shot putters, especially ones who have not penetrated the highest echelons of the event.

At one stage last year he was living in the hut of his local club in Walton. Food accounts for most of his budget: each week he eats seven pounds of meat, four pounds of fruit, five pounds of potatoes and seven pounds of vegetables plus three pints of milk and six Shredded Wheat a day. He fears that if he is unable to continue scratching a living he will lose weight, and with it his strength.

Yet, however bad things have got, he has resisted the temptation to dip his hand into the medicine bottle for these few extra centimetres that would catapult him into the world elite and the big money, even though one top exponent told him: 'If you used the drugs I did you'd be the best thrower in the world.'

Edwards did not need to reproduce the form he showed in Glasgow recently - when he threw 19.47 metres, the sixth best in the world this year - but was still a comfortable winner with a second-round effort of 18.95. This was the 15th national title of his career, putting him within one of Geoff Capes's record.

The dull thud of the shot landing reverberated around the empty 8,000-seat arena. 'I had no motivation tonight,' Edwards said. 'It was absolutely dead, the worst it's ever been.'

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