The athletics community suffered a enormous loss on May 11 when Shaun Pickering unexpectedly passed away. He was an Olympic athlete, coach, and fan. But more than anything he was the man behind the scenes that helped push the sport forward. To help remember him, we’re joined this week by some of his best friends including Vesteinn Hafsteinsson, Charles van Commenee, Robert Weir, Frank Dick, and Don Babbitt.
Shaun Pickering was the form UK coach for the heavy throws, and himself an elite thrower in all the heavy events. His career spanned decades and included Commonwealth bronze in the shot put, 5 Welsh shot put titles, 5 Welsh discus titles, and 9 Welsh hammer throw titles. Pickering was the son of Olympian Jean Pickering and Ron Pickering and helped carry on their legacy through the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund which supports developing athletes across the UK.
Vesteinn Hafsteinsson has coached Olympic champions Gerd Kanter and Daniel Stahl in the discus and is currently performance director for the Icelandic Olympic Committee. Charles van Commenee has coaches numerous Olympic and World champions as well and is head coach of the Dutch national team. Robert Weir was a Commonwealth Games champion in the hammer and discus and currently coaching at the University of Missouri. Frank Dick is the former head coach of UK Athletics and now is a consultant and advisors to sports team and businesses. Don Babbitt is a coach at the University of Georgia where he has also coached numerous champions and led several key throwing projects for World Athletics.
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- Athletics Weekly put together a detailed obituary of Pickering following his death.
- You can see some of Pickering’s life on his social media on Instagram (@shaunpickering) or Twitter (@ShaunDPickering).
- Pickering was a frequent contributor to our episodes looking at major championships. Listen to Episode 277 where we previewed the 2022 World Championships together and Episode 255 where we debriefed the Tokyo Olympics.
- Guests Vesteinn Hafsteinsson and Don Babbitt have also been featured on the site previous. We talked in detail about training with Hafsteinsson back in 2014. And Babbitt has been on Episode 256 on throwing trends, Episode 170 on throwing mechanics, as well as a written training talk interview.
Key quotes and topics
- 0:00 – Introduction.
- 4:45 – Young Shaun: “I don’t think I’ve come across anyone in track and field athletics who had the width and depth of network that he had.”
- 7:45 – The man who knew it all: “One of my joys in life was actually communicating with Shaun and being able to tell him about a thrower or coach that he didn’t know about.”
- 10:00 – The brother from another mother and stories from Robert Weir: “Shaun, more than anything else, was athletics fan, not just of the throws, but a fan.”
- 17:45 – Shaun the fixer: “I’ve never met anybody such that is more like a service person than Shaun Pickering.”
- 22:00 – The Holland years.
- 26:00 – Carrying on Shaun’s legacy.
- 32:30 – Staying in the background.
- 36:00 – Earning Shaun’s respect and Shaun the techie.
- 43:00 – Facing death and the paradox of service: “The paradox of Shaun was the amount of care that he gave other people and the little care he gave about himself.” “In coaching you just tell the athletes and you actually push to what the person needs. But friendship is different. After all the loving advice and and the harsh conversations, you respect in the end.”
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