WHEN powerlifter Micky Yule competes at the Commonwealth Games, he expects a large, vociferous and wholly supportive audience. That will differ just a little from his last public experience in Glasgow, when a group of welders roared comments that might best be described as robust.
The difference, of course, was that the 35-year-old from Musselburgh, rather than competing, was posing for a photograph – one that has already become an iconic image for Team Scotland as they prepare for the Games. A former sergeant in the Royal Engineers, who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan four years ago, Yule does not exactly take naturally to posing, and needed a bit of persuasion to take part in the photo shoot on the banks of the Clyde earlier this year.
“We went down to Govan, to BAE Systems, where they were building an aircraft carrier,” Yule said yesterday at Team Scotland’s camp at Stirling University. “I was a bit sceptical, because it’s outside my comfort zone.
“I was in the army for 15 years and suddenly I was taking my top off in front of a bunch of welders, and all these guys were working away as I was being sprayed with water. I thought: ‘I don’t know if I like this,’ but Alistair Devine, the photographer, assured me it would turn out all right.
“And when I saw the pictures I was happy with how they turned out. They look great.
“I was on a slipway down to the water and it was a nightmare to be on prosthetic legs, surrounded by chains, so I couldn’t see anything behind me. Alistair assured me it was going to look great. I couldn’t really see it – at that time I was just taking abuse from the guys who were swapping shifts up top about why I had my top off. It was a bit of banter, shouting a few things you couldn’t put in the paper.
“The whole thing is they didn’t want to stop the work. It still went on in the background – and the foreman wasn’t going to stop the work for me. It was a good day and different from what I’m used to.”
Powerlifting has been a Paralympic sport for 30 years, and Yule is a seasoned competitor. But Glasgow will also be different from what he is used to in that the crowds will be larger and more raucous.
“The atmosphere will be brilliant in Glasgow,” he said. “I know there are loads of people coming just to watch me, and other athletes will be able to say the same, as well as those just coming to see the sport itself.
“I’m looking forward to feeding off the crowd: it will be the biggest crowd I’ve ever lifted in front of before. If you get good in sport you’re going to lift in front of big crowds and represent your country.
“I’m looking forward to doing what I have to do. It’s another day in the office, another competition. I need to get my weights lifted and I will use all the energy from the crowd to get those weights flying up.
“A few mates from the army are coming up, and family and friends. Some are having difficulty securing accommodation, but I’m just laughing at them now. Too late: they won’t get anywhere. They won’t get anywhere in Glasgow and the Edinburgh Festival is on. I told them all that ages ago.”
While many athletes now have little more than a week to go before their competition begins, Yule will have to wait a little longer, as his does not take place until the day before the closing ceremony, on Saturday 2 August.
“When I looked at the schedule I thought it would be best to be competing earlier, so you could then relax, feel the atmosphere and enjoy it more,” he said. “But it’s Saturday night, second last day of competition, and there are loads of finals on that night, so it will still be a great atmosphere. ”
Although Yule must wait longer than most to compete, he does not feel isolated because of that. Quite the opposite. He described the team’s camaraderie as “brilliant”, and is enjoying the novelty of being integrated with able-bodied competitors.
“It struck home last weekend at our pre-camp meeting when the likes of Chris Hoy came in and spoke to us about their past experiences of Commonwealth Games and Olympics,” he said. “It’s great to be part of a group that involves all different sports, especially in parasport – very rarely do we mix with able-bodied athletes. Everyone left really enthusiastic to go on and perform as they know they can perform.”