Athletics: Myerscough concentrates on the fine art of winning gold

This morning, in the Stade de France, a man known as the Blackpool Tower will attempt to provide Britain's dimming World Championship prospects with some early illumination.

Blackpool-bred Carl Myers-cough, who stands a formidable 6ft 10in, believes he is in condition to putt the shot further than he ever has before. And given that he has already produced a world-class performance this season in breaking Geoff Capes's British record - set in 1977 - with a personal best of 21.92 metres, he is one of the favourites for gold.

"It's nice. No problem. I welcome it," he says, in a deliberate Lancashire accent that offers little evidence of the three years he has spent studying Fine Art at the University of Nebraska.

Myerscough's record performance at the NCAA Championships, which came on his last throw, was welcome news after a period when his name was more frequently connected with the doping offence which saw him serve a two-year ban from February, 2000.

The 23-year-old Blackpool and Fylde athlete has always protested his innocence after two out-of-competition tests indicated what was described as a "cocktail" of banned steroids. Last month, he appealed unsuccessfully against the British Olympic Association by-law prohibiting Britons found guilty of serious doping abuses from competing at any future Games.

He believes that success in Paris might improve his chances of changing the BOA stance.

"I'm sure it will have a great effect on public opinion and the way people are going to feel about the decision. The better I can do here, I believe it will help my chances.

"In another sense, though, nothing could be further from my mind. I'm just trying to get out there and make the most of the opportunity I have."

Statistically speaking, America's Kevin Toth should be regarded as favourite after throwing the season's world-best mark of 22.67m.

Myerscough believes a putt of 21.30 to 21.40m will "definitely get a medal," and that an effort of 21.50 to 21.60m secure a silver and possibly a gold, though he avers that "it might take nearer to 22" to win the competition.

"I believe that I'm in slightly better shape now than I was when I threw (21.92m), so I know I'm ready to throw really far.

"Having qualifying and the final on the same day isn't the ideal situation for throwing a 'pb.' I hope to qualify safely and really have a go for it in the final."

He is ready for the psychological games that go with the territory. "With some people, it can be a source of motivation. You know you should be able to beat them, and certainly there are some people I do not want to give the satisfaction of beating me. Certain Americans," he adds with a slow smile.

It seems incongruous that a man of such bulk -- he is 24 stone, with a 21 inch neck and a 57 inch chest -- should be so fascinated with Fine Art. Yet Myerscough has had a love of drawing and pottery since he was at junior school, and spent five years helping out at a local pottery before crossing the Atlantic.

"Some of the time I'd be stacking bricks. They liked me as a worker when I got older. I'd be busy painting somewhere, and then I'd be off lugging stuff around. But within two or three years there, I was making stuff for the shop," he says.

One invitation he has so far resisted has come from the American Football scouts with the NFL, who hover around his university scouting for new talent. Unlike Britain's former shot putter Bob Weir, who got to within one cut of making the NFL grade, he is not interested.

"I don't really know anything about the game. I see the players hobbling round the gym on crutches every day. That puts me off," says Myerscough, whose wife Melissa Price competes here for the United States in the hammer.

It is a costly stance. "If I became a pro', I would be on $5m a year. But my heart's been in athletics for so long that I'm totally committed to that.

"I don't know of any track and field athlete who puts in the dedication and the discipline that they do, just for the money. I think you have to really love what you do, and do it for slightly bigger reasons."

Britain's biggest team member is about to face up to his biggest reason to compete so far. If he can live up to his potential, the smiles on the faces of his team-mates will be measurable in megawatts.

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