Shot putter and discus thrower

Born: November 2, 1938;

Died: December 11, 2019

MIKE Lindsay who has died aged 81, was an outstanding shot putter and discus thrower who raised standards to unprecedented levels as the first Scot to putt the shot 60ft, as symbolic athletically as the four-minute mile.

Multiple British and Scottish champion and international on more than 35 occasions, his high point came when, aged only 21, he secured 5th place in the shot at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. This was the highest place ever achieved in the event by a British athlete and was subsequently never bettered, albeit equalled once, by Geoff Capes in 1980 in Moscow.

At the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, Lindsay secured silver medals for Scotland in both shot and discus, in the former missing gold by a mere 4cm. In 1963 at the World Student Games in Brazil he collected another two silver medals in his speciality events. Being one of the first British athletes to gain a sports scholarship to the US, to Oklahoma University in the late 1950s, undoubtedly enhanced his development into a world-class thrower. Once retired from competition in 1971, he enjoyed an accomplished career in the field of physical education and academia, much involved in the development of the study of biomechanics.

Michael Robert Lindsay was born in Glasgow, the younger son of Archie and Lucy, at a time when his father was stationed locally in the army. Elder brother Chris was also a noted athlete who represented Great Britain ‘B’ at 440 yards. Soon after they moved to Coldstream where Mike attended the local primary school till aged 11 when the family moved to London because his father had secured employment with Royal Mail. Mike attended St. Marleybone Grammar School where he was a talented all rounder at rugby, cricket and athletics. As he developed physically and started weight training, his coach Doug Mannion switched him from jumping to throwing events.

He achieved prodigiously as a junior athlete winning the A.A.A. [British] titles at shot and discus in both 1956 and ’57, in the latter year also claiming the senior A.A.A. title at discus while still a junior. He also set a world junior best in the event with a throw over 193ft easily beating the previous best by the iconic Al Oerter, later multiple Olympic champion.

In 1957 aged 18 he set his first of many Scottish records in the shot at Edinburgh Highland Games obliterating the previous one, represented Scotland in his first international against Ireland in Dublin winning both shot and discus and gained his first British international vest against France. The following year at Cardiff he made the first of four appearances for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, with creditable placings in shot and discus, and in 1959 repeated his A.A.A. discus success while runner-up in the shot.

Oklahoma University offered him a sports scholarship and he rewarded their faith by setting a British discus record within a year. Access to top level coaching while competing against throwers of the calibre of Olympic champions Parry O’Brien and Oerter edged him towards world class as he made his mark in Rome.

After graduating in mechanical engineering he returned to continue competing successfully for the next decade under coach Ron Pickering. He added a A.A.A. title in the shot to his CV, won the event for Britain in the 1963 contest against the USA, beating future Olympic champion Randy Matson, competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and made further Commonwealth Games appearances in Perth, Kingston and Edinburgh.

By the time of his final international match in 1971, for Scotland against the Home Nations, he had topped the Scottish ranking lists at shot and discus for 15 years consecutively, unparalleled dominance. Throughout his career he remained steadfastly drug free at a time when drug misuse had infiltrated the sport.

He later undertook a postgraduate teaching qualification at Carnegie PE College in Leeds before studying for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Leeds when the significance of the application of biomechanics to sport was being recognised. there followed lectureships in biomechanics at Madeley College, Staffordshire, Dunfermline PE College, Edinburgh and a Ph.D. in Bio-engineering at Strathclyde University. In 1979 he was appointed director of PE at Leeds University where he remained till retiring in 2004 and made a major contribution to the development of sports science degrees.

Eminent coach Frank Dick praised him, “Mike brought greater understanding to the application of biomechanics to sport and developing athletes. He was also a true gentleman who hid his light under a bushel.”

In 1972 Mike married Vivienne Greener, a teacher whom he had met in Leeds and the couple went on to enjoy 47 years together, latterly living in Harrogate. They had two children, Giles, who is lead performance analyst for England Cricket, and Jane, a civil servant in Whitehall.

Mike had an abiding interest in all sport and after retiring from athletics played squash, badminton, golf, did orienteering and enjoyed board games. He was a gentle giant and generous spirited individual held in high regard by all. He is survived by his wife, children and brother.