Long & Strong is dedicated to all throwing competitions, including that close cousin, the Highland/Scottish Games. In an effort to orient our mostly track and field audience, I am pleased to bring you an interview with Kurt Pauli, maintainer of the North American Scottish Games Association website.
Long & Strong: Kurt, how were you introduced to the Highland Games?
Kurt Pauli: My father, Jim Pauli, has been competing in the Games ever since I can remember. He took my mother, my brother Jason (who also competes in the Games as a pro), and I to almost all of the competitions. Today, I still compete against some of the guys who I met when I was 5 years old and competed against my father when they were younger.
L&S: Can you give us a brief history of the sport?
KP: The Highland Games were developed in the early eighteen hundreds as huge celebrations for everyone in the area to attend and have a good time. Naturally, the men found ways to entertain themselves through competition in the Heavy Events.
L&S: Is it exclusively male?
KP: No, in the Western U.S. women can compete in several competitions a year in California, Colorado, and the Women's National Championships in Arizona. They are becoming more frequent in the East also at Games in Detroit and Fergus, Ontario.
L&S: Can you tell us about the events that comprise a competition?
KP: The standard events consist of: the stone put (glide or spin), 56 lb. weight throw for distance (one-handed), 28 lb. weight throw for distance (one-handed), the hammer throw (16 or 22 lb.or both), the caber toss (log 16-22 ft. long, weighing 120-185 lbs.), the sheaf toss (16-20 lb. burlap bag tossed over a bar with a pitchfork), and the 56 lb. weight for height.
L&S: What does training consist of for a Highlander?
KP: Usually a lot of competitions. I'll do twenty this year between April and September. Olympic lifting is a must for the Heavy Events athlete. Lifting sessions are usually cut down during the competitive season and are used only to maintain strength levels. Olympic lifting during the off-season is used to increase strength and explosiveness.
L&S: What competition classes do you have, and how do they differ?
KP: The only classes are amateur and professional with the difference being that amateurs don't make any prize money.
L&S: Am I correct that the Highland games are usually held in conjunction with fairs and festivals?
KP: Yes, this is how the Games can pay the prize and travel money. Not too many people would pay to see just the athletes, so they bring their families and can see Scottish dancing, piping, bands, as well as athletics.
L&S: If I wanted to get started, what course of action would you recommend?
KP: Start throwing in track & field and learn the techniques no matter how strong you think you are. Find someone that knows where the competitions are and who to contact about getting in (MILO, NASGA, SAAA, RMSA). And most importantly, get the Heavy Events training videos from VP Productions (http://www.rust.net/~kpauli/VPproductions).
L&S: Internationally, what countries/continents are the Highland Games held in?
KP: US, Canada, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Malaysia.
L&S: What might the earnings potential be for a top-level competitor?
KP: World-class athletes can earn up $30,000 a year.
Thanks Kurt for some insight into the Highland Games. To learn more, drop by Kurt's NASGA website or check out the brand new training video!