Ease of latest victory is surprise for Nicholls

Warrington Guardian: John Nicholls, a former Warrington Sports Personality of the Year winner John Nicholls, a former Warrington Sports Personality of the Year winner

EUROPEAN Masters shot put champion John Nicholls continued his preparation for next year’s World Championships with victory in a University of Loughborough Open Age competition.

The 48-year-old Stockton Heath resident, who won a fourth consecutive European Masters Indoor Championships title in March, defeated athletes half his age to take first prize in the 7.26kg division with a throw of 14.06m – two thirds of a metre further than his closest rival.

But though he was satisfied with his performance, the Sale Harriers athlete was hoping for a bit more competition from the young, elite athletes studying at the university.

“I went to Loughborough knowing it was a sporting university, but I hoped there would be a higher standard there then there actually was,” he admitted.

“It was ok, but I was hoping to throw a bit further and go up against competiton that would help me do that.”

His throw of 14.06m was 0.65m short of the one that won him European gold earlier in the year.

But Nicholls is content that he is on schedule to be challenging for another title come March, when the best veteran shot putters in the world assemble in Budapest to fight it out for the gold.

“I set myself a minimum of 14m for this competition, then I have the Northern Indoor Championships in January where I will be looking to throw 14.50m,” he said.

“Hopefully I will continue to improve to 15m for the World Veterans, which is where I need to be.

“It is a good start though; it means that I am on track, but not getting cocky about my progress.

“It is also ahead of where I was this time last year building up to the European Championships, though there is a big difference between a global title and a European one.”

His next major competition will almost certainly offer the competition he has been craving, though, as Nicholls will travel to Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport to face Commonwealth games hopefuls in January.

“The standard at the regionals will be better than the standard at the Worlds Vets 45,” he said.

“But I’m purposely putting myself in competitions that will be stronger than what I face at the worlds next year.

“Compete with the best or you get left behind, that’s the theory anyway!”

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