JUST one kilo – the weight of a bag of sugar. That’s all that separated Peter Kirkbride from victory at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. This time, he is determined that nothing will deny him.
The 26-year-old weightlifter, born in Irvine and now living in Kilmarnock, is so firmly focused on winning gold in Glasgow that he has not even taken a casual interest in who his rivals might be in the under-94kg category. That includes the man who beat him in 2010, Faavae Faauliuli of Samoa.
As far as Kirkbride is concerned, this time it’s about total tunnel vision. Clyde Tunnel vision, you might say, as the Ayrshireman prepares for his competition at the SECC, now just two months away. “The goal is to go one better,” Kirkbride said yesterday after being named as one of 29 additions to Team Scotland in his own sport, powerlifting, judo and gymnastics. “I’m not training to come second. I’m training for gold.
“I’m not interested in who I’m competing against. I’m there myself. I’ve not been training 15 years to worry about someone else – it’s about the best I can do. It’s a selfish sport that way. One of my best mates will be in the England team and I’ll be competing against him, so that’ll be good.
“Last time I was one kilo close – a bag of sugar. The better man won, but it didn’t bother me. I did the best I could do on the day. When I came back to Kilmarnock it was like I’d won gold. Everything was wild and it was great for the club and myself.”
Many athletes in many Commonwealth sports long for the chance to go full-time, at least in the build-up to a major tournament, so they can devote all their physical and mental energy to preparation for a competition. Kirkbride was the opposite. Part of the British set-up at the last Olympics, he was invited to rejoin the programme last year. There was an initial verbal agreement, but then he had second thoughts. Now back working on the roads – sometimes in Kilmarnock, sometimes in Glasgow itself – he is happier by far being part of the real world.
“Before, I was so isolated,” he explained. “I didn’t realise being full-time would be as bad as it was. It’s why I got Kilo, my dog – as a companion. I was just vegetating, lying in my bed waiting to go to training. I don’t need to jump through as many hoops as I needed to before. I’m enjoying my training now. When I was with GB they had me training 14 times in one week – I’d been training only six times in one week.
“I was full-time then, so it was hard. And I just got injured and made things worse. I had to do what they asked me to do, so that was the cause of the injury – overtraining. Last year GB offered me a contract verbally and I said okay and packed in my job. I was getting £600 a week. I hadn’t trained for six weeks but came second at the British after four or five training sessions. It was quite good and I was surprised.
“Then the GB performance managers said they wanted me to come down to Leeds, train Monday to Thursday then go back up the road, pay my digs and trains – digs down there for £18,000 a year. I’d have been skint within six months and in even worse debt than I’m already in. So I came off the programme. I’m working part-time and Scotland support me now. I’m on the roads with Hamilton Tarmac. Its my coach’s brother’s company. It’s one day here and one day there and that’s it.
“What I do depends on what needs done that day. I could be out with the boys or raking or shovelling or barrowing. We’re in a happy place now, going out and working and getting banter. The things I’ve had to sacrifice to get here would make it all worth it if I got gold.”
A Rangers supporter, Kirkbride would like nothing better, should he win Commonwealth gold, than to be invited to Ibrox to parade his medal at half-time during a game. “It would be nice to be able to do that,” he said. “Meet all the players and go into the trophy room and meet the manager and directors. That would be fantastic.”
And if, this time, he won gold, rather than lost it, by the weight of a bag of sugar? Well, that would be especially sweet.