KEVIN Thom, recovered from a hand mangled in a grisly industrial accident, upheld Scotland's honour on a day of awesome strength athletics at Callander.

Though Saturday's bid for the World Highland Games heavy events crown failed by the narrowest possible margin, beaten 39-381/2 by American Ryan Vierra, the Dumfries man advanced his claims to the title of Scotland's finest all-round thrower.

A former world caber-tossing champion, Thom predictably won that discipline, with a perfect 12 o'clock effort, and tied in the weight for height with Yorkshireman Graham Mullins.

Fourth in the stone and third in the weight for distance, he led by half a point going into the final event, but a second to Vierra in the hammer left Thom runner-up overall.

Vierra learned traditional throws skills at college in California from Scottish expatriate coach Rob McKay. Vierra proved so adept a pupil that he has given up his job as a farmer and now makes a reputed $100,000-a-year on the 32-meeting American highland games circuit.

He has already won the world heavy events title in Virginia this year, ahead of Peterhead's Francis Brebner, and on his five-event tour of Scotland he has cleaned up at Luss, Inveraray, Callander, and yesterday at Aviemore, with Fort Augustus to come on Wednesday.

With the main opposition departed, Thom won yesterday from Cowal champion Jason Young, yet even the best Scots cannot make a living from their own games.

Thom, a maintainance fitter, might have lost his hand in an accident when repairing a hydraulic ram for punching holes in steel. ''My thumb was just hanging off - tendons, muscles, and ligaments all pulped, and wrist and arm muscles became badly withered. Surgery at Glasgow's Canniesburn Hospital saved it, plus months of physiotherapy and rehabiltiation exercises. I was out for a year, but then missed all last season with a ruptured tendon also on my throwing hand. I'm delighted to have got back to this level.''

Fast and athletic, technically excellent, and winner of the previous three major Scottish events, plus the Asian title in Djakarta last month, Thom defies the stereotype of the lumbering brute-force heavy. In that department, however, all the competitors must defer to Shannon Hartnet, the only female, less than half the weight of her rivals, and certainly more Glamazon than Amazon.

Though there is a flourishing American circuit for women, ''but no equal pay, as yet,'' there is no female highland throws tradition in Scotland. Women's implements are lighter than those of the men - 14lbs as opposed to 16lbs in the hammer, for example.

''Let's have a bit of encouragement,'' urged games doyen David Webster of spectators who looked approving, but sceptical, at the slip of a lassie.

It is doubtful if Hartnet, a marine biologist, US Gladiator, and now gymnasium owner, understood the cry eventually wrung from the crowd: ''Go oan yersel' hen,'' but she obliged by breaking her own world best in the weight for distance, with 61ft 3ins.

Those who might question the intensity of the men's contest should note third finisher Petur Gudmundsson, double Olympian, three times World Championship shot-putter and European indoor bronze medallist. His presence in the shadow of Ben Ledi was, he explained, a therapeutic break to help better prepare his mind for Athens next Saturday when he competes for Iceland in the World Championships.

Gudmundsson showed he is in the form of his life, breaking the Scottish all-comers' mark with the 16lb stone, with 58ft 51/2ins. Though the same weight as the metal shot he will throw in Greece, the stone is substantially larger, irregular in shape, and is launched from a rough grass circle, rather than concrete, which accounts for Gudmundsson's shot best of 20.26 metres. (The 20-year-old Scottish best is 18.93m)

The Viking's effort on Saturday surpassed the distance achieved by Joe Quigley, the Australian who was subsequently tarnished by doping allegations and suspended by the Scottish Games Association.

Brought up on a dairy farm, Gudmundsson eshewed the national sport of glima - a form of wrestling - in favour of pole-vaulting in the farm yard as a boy, using a bamboo pole bound with tape.

''We had a shot, discus, and hammer as well, and I quickly became a thrower.''

Presumably, at 6ft 3ins and 2012 stones, Iceland's supply of vaulting poles would soon have been exhausted.

It defies athletics precedent that Gudmundsson should push himself through five gruelling events just seven days before the most important contests of the year, but the former policeman, now criminal justice student, explained: ''The intensity of big championships is awful. I get stressed out, but this is wonderful - helps me relax, and prepares me perfectly.''

Atlanta Olympic weightlifter and newly-crowned super-heavyweight European champion Raimond Bergmanis, of Latvia, won Callander's two-day World Muscle Power Championships, a try-out for this year's World's Strongest Man contest, beating American Mark Phillipi.

Regin Vagadal of the Faroe Islands proved that his country can get a result against Scotland by beating Dundee's Brian Bell into fourth.

The highlight was a world record in the farmer's walk by Finn Riku Kiri. He carried 120-kilos in each hand (528lbs in total) a distance of 91.06 metres.

Ordinary mortals, who failed even to lift one of these weights off the ground, two-handed, were duly impressed but thought it a waste of good beer when he sent a 28lb-keg birling over the seven-metre bar for a second world record.

Hopefully the contents were not too flat to toast the sponsors, CSC Forest Products, or organisers, the Round Table, who raised thousands for charity.

World Highland Games heavy events championships: 16lb stone: P Gudmundsson (Iceland) 58ft 5.5ins (Scottish all-comers' record). 28lb weight for distance: R Vierra (USA) 93ft 5ins. Hammer: Vierra 134ft 1ins. Caber: K Thom (Dumfries). 56lb weight for height: Thom and G Mullins (England) 15ft 6ins. Overall: 1, Vierra 39 points; 2, Thom 38.5; 4, Gudmundsson 34.

World Muscle Power Championships: 1, R Bergmanis (Latvia) 71; 2, M Phillipi (Nevada) 64; 3, R Vagadal 61.5 (Faroes); 4, B Bell (Dundee) 57.