Monday, February 16, 2009

Man on a Mission

Issue date: 2/16/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Last January, Greg Pilling had an epiphany.

Months earlier, in the fall of 2007, the junior men's track thrower felt like something was missing. It was evident in his throws, his technique and even in his drive to achieve his Olympic dreams.

Although he diligently abided by a workout plan and technique that made him the third-best distance thrower in Canadian high school history, Pilling changed his philosophy less than 18 months before the 2008 Canadian Olympic trials.

"You can't expect different results without change," Pilling said to himself on a winter day last January, a day to which he credits as the beginning of his Olympic journey.

He revamped his training exercies, practicing a new workout that featured heavier lifting in shorter cycles. He no longer practiced hammer and weight throws - instead, he focused solely on the discus.

Pilling traveled to his hometown of London, Ontario, to train with three-time Olympian Jason Tunks, who competed in consecutive Olympics from Atlanta in 1996 to Athens in 2004.

"Greg is fun to train with," Tunks said in an e-mail to Central Michigan Life. "He takes it seriously and wants to be very good."

The two attended Sir Frederick Banting High School in London, where Tunks owns most of the school's throwing and meet records.

"It was neat getting to throw alongside him," Pilling said of Tunks. "It was nice having that set of eyes on me technically, and he was pretty happy with where my technique was at."

As Pilling began to put his new philosophy to work, he regained his confidence, which was missing from his earlier workouts.

"Before I changed my training, I really didn't have the confidence that I had the chance of making the Olympic team," Pilling said.

"I changed a whole bunch through that experience, made great gains and really gained the confidence that I will be able to make it to the Olympics."

Six months later, in July, Pilling stood alongside his training partner at the Canadian trials in Windsor. But it did not start as he planned, especially after a successful warmup session.

"Once the competition started, my first throw just didn't go well and it got into my head a little bit," he said of fouling on his first two attempts. "It was a pretty stressful situation, I was just focused on getting a legal throw and because of that I had to cut back on my throw [power] and I was worried about things."

On his sixth and final throw, Pilling launched his longest discus of the competition for 53.99 meters, bumping himself into third place, right behind Tunks.

Although the pair finished strong in second and third place, respectively, both Tunks and Pilling missed the Canadian squad after failing to pass the provisional mark required for the trip to Beijing.

A new edition

Months removed from the Olympic trials and almost a year since altering his training regimen, change blanketed the 25-year-old's life yet again in late December.

This time, the change didn't involve repetitions or weights, but rather changing diapers and losing the occasional bit of sleep.

On Dec. 28 2008, Elizabeth Pilling, his wife, gave birth to the couple's first child, Daniel Aiden.

On Sunday, seven-week-old Daniel took his third trip to the track with his father, fascinated with the burning lights and spinning fans above him in the track bay as he rested in his mother's arms.

"Greg's always loved kids and has been excited about being a dad," said Elizabeth Pilling, a CMU alumnus. "Doing this during classes and practice was something that he wanted to do and was willing to do."

Back to competition

This indoor season, the junior is back in a Chippewas uniform for the first time since 2007 after being granted a redshirt by the NCAA last season to train for the Olympics.

"It's an honor for CMU to have an athlete whose competing for the Olympics," said Jim Knapp, head coach. "That's an elite thing."

During the team's quadrangular meet at Eastern Michigan on Jan. 30, Pilling recorded his first win since returning.

"I've been very excited to get back in uniform," Pilling said. "Maybe a little too much on the indoor season, but it's very exciting to get back here."

Knapp said the team looks up to Pilling's maturity, who crams in his duties of being a student-athlete, next to being a husband and father and a member of the student advisory board.

"Greg is all about leadership," Knapp said. "He comes early. He stays late and he's got a tremendous work ethic."

Olympic dreams

Pilling has a lofty goal for 2009.

"The Year of the 360," Pilling said, referring to the the spinning motion a thrower goes through and his goal of throwing 60 meters in each of the throwing events.

Last January, he had an epiphany. Just more than one year later, he has a baby and the renewed confidence that his dreams will become a reality.

"Being in London in 2012 is something I'm definitely planning on," Pilling said about his Olympic expectations in three years.

But as confident Pilling is on his goals, he admits last year he would not make the same statements.

"I didn't think I could, but now I know I can," he said.

No comments: