Shane Perkins is, like all world-class sprinters, a little different writes Matthew Keenan.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out world class sprinters are a little different.
They’re the ones prepared to thump their chest to promote their brilliance in an effort to intimidate their opponent.
Australia has had some great sprinters. World champions like Gordon Johnson, John Nicholson, Stephen Pate and Gary Neiwand. And of course Ryan Bayley was the Olympic champion in Athens 2004.
The track has had its struggles of late. Many blaming small crowds at our major races on the lack of big personalities.
Some of our sprinters have had their problems, admittedly predominately self-inflicted, but you could hardly argue they weren’t entertaining with a number on their back.
For those yearning for a racing personality, matched by world-class performances, enter stage left Shane Perkins.
Yes, he has a wrap sheet. One he’s probably sick of reading or hearing about. One that led to an overreaction to his expression of disappointment in the keirin at the Commonwealth Games.
Sometimes for good and sometimes to his own detriment Perkins wears his heart on his sleeve.
Like his love of the Richmond Football Club, where his grandfather, Polly Perkins, was a premiership player.
Richmond has been struggle for the past 25-years but a few seasons ago they got a rare win over archrivals Collingwood. Given Perkins trains in the VIS gym, which is shared by the Collingwood Football Club, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to wear his heart on his sleeve.
He wore his Richmond jumper to the gym that Monday.
Some Collingwood players asked him to take it off. Perkins, never one to take a backwards step, calmly responded with “you take it off”.
The jumper stayed on.
The Richmond colours got a run again at the recent Austral Wheelrace. Perkins set a lap record at DISC of 12.4-seconds, with an average speed of 72kp/h and a max of 81kp/h, all while wearing a Richmond jumper with granddad's number nine on his back.
He’s a married father of two now. He’s settled down. He’s learnt from his mistakes and the mistakes of others.
He’s even organised. The day his sprint gold medal winning Commonwealth Games campaign concluded, where by chance and perhaps fate he wore number nine, he sent Scott McGrory a text message organising training sessions for the remainder of that month.
But he hasn’t lost that thing. That thing that makes a sprinter special. You can’t measure it in a lab controlled lactate test. It’s not recorded on an SRM power metre.
It’s the intangible that made Gary Ablett (snr) and Alfie Langer standout from the others.
That thing that makes crusty old men feel young again because of the “how did he do that” moments.
Perkins will be wearing the green-and-gold, instead of the yellow-and-black, at the UCI Track World Championships later this month. He’ll be one of the contender but not the hot favourite for the blue ribbon sprint title.
To win will require a “how did he do that” moment from Perkins. But that’s what sprinters do. They do the things most of us think aren’t possible.
The UCI Track World Championships can be viewed via live streaming from midnight on Saturday March 26 and March 27. SBS Two will broadcast highlights from 10.30pm (AEST) on March 28.