By Mick Jensen
He’s the newly crowned Australian Scottish Heavy Athletics champion, and Ashburton strong man Craig Manson is keen to lift the profile of his Highland Games sport.
The painter is a former power lifter and weighs in at 105kg, much less than his throwing rivals, who are typically between 125kg and 160kg.
The 24-year-old only took up the traditional lifting and throwing events two years ago, but he’s learnt quickly and is already among the best amateurs on the circuit.
The circuit includes three main competitions in New Zealand and five in Australia.
The biggest in New Zealand is down the road at Hororata, which doubles as the Oceania Championship.
Other events here are held at Waipu on January 1 (New Zealand Championships) and Paeroa in February (North Island Championships).
Mr Manson and his fellow competitors usually compete over eight events – the hammer throw (7kg and 10kg), stone throw, weight for distance (12kg and 25kg), weight for height, sheaf toss and the iconic caber toss.
His victory at the premier Scottish Highland gathering in Bundanoon, Australia, earlier this month was contested over five of those events and is the second win in the country for Craig, who won the East Coast Championships last September.
“I love the competition, but also the camaraderie on the Scottish Heavy Athletics circuit.
“It’s a small sport for big men, but the events are more dynamic than the power lifting I used to do.”
Craig said he made up for his lack of bulk and size with speed and technique.
He won prize money and had some of his expenses paid at competitions, which was a bonus, but he was involved because he liked to compete and to test himself.
He trains in his home gym and also at Snap Fitness four times a week and heads out to practice in the field three times a week.
“The implements we use in competition are all custom made and unique to the particular competition, which is quite special,” said Craig.
His practice implements were all custom made by a local engineering firm, he said.
Craig Manson is keen to raise the profile of his strong throwing sport and wants to inspire others to give it a go.
He is also more than happy to offer coaching advice to those wanting to try it.
“Training can be a lonely business by yourself and even though I’ve only been throwing for a couple of years, there are plenty of pointers I can offer to others.”
A training day for Highland Games athletes will be at Hororata in September, ahead of the games proper in November.
Craig Manson’s ambitions include competing at a Highland Games in Scotland one day.