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Australia Man Prepares to Break World Record in Sport of Coal Shoveling



By Rachel McGhee

September 10, 2018 - Shoveling tonnes of coal by hand might not be everybody's idea of fun, but it is for an Australian man who has shoveled more than 20,000 kilograms of coal in the past 15 years.

Russell Lane is a world coal-shoveling champion and started competing in the sport at 14.

He is preparing to defend his title at the Australian championships this November and again at the world championships next year.


The sport sees competitors fill an industrial skip with 508 kilograms of coal using a banjo shovel, with the competitor clocking the fastest time crowned the winner.

"I've seen over the years a lot of big buff guys come along and they don't go too well," Lane said.

Lane said it is about strength and speed, but most of all, technique, such as "where you shovel, how much you have on the shovel, if you're throwing it in the right spot".


Coal shoveling at the Fingal Valley Festival in Tasmania.


Photo by Damian McIntyre, ABC News

A Background in Coal

Lane grew up in the small central Queensland town of Moura, a rural community reliant on coal mining and home to the state's coal shoveling championships.

He now lives in the nearby town of Blackwater and works in the mines.

"My background is coal, my father worked out at Moura for 30 years, and I've been in the mining industry for 16 or 17 years," he said.

The Guinness World Record time for coal shoveling in doubles is 14.8 seconds and Lane and his partner Malcolm Woods were just 0.1 of a second off matching the time.

"We achieved 14.9 seconds in Moura three years ago," Lane said.

"It was a little frustrating because out of the three time-keepers, two were just over the record and one was under — but it definitely indicated to us that it's achievable.

"Hopefully for the Australian titles my partner and I can get the Guinness."

Lane is also not far off breaking the single world record.

"I believe the Guinness Book of Records for singles is 29 seconds and last weekend I shovelled 32."

Sport derived from 'old pick and shovel days'

The sport of coal shoveling is derived from the more traditional form of coal mining … no machines, just back-bending manual labour.

"A lot of the young ones don't want to do it because they've got all gear now, diggers, and loaders," Lane said.

"When back in the old days, that's how they made their money … actually shoveling coal into skips."

Jimmy Parsons, a retired coal shoveling champion from Moura, remembers the "old pick and shovel days" well.

He spent 50 years working in the mines and for him, shoveling coal did not start as a sport.

"Whatever you earned, you shovelled," he said.

Parsons said the use of machinery and development of mining technology has completely transformed the job of coal miners.

"You were on contract and you used to get paid so much a tonne," he said.

"You'd have to wheel the skips in … fill them with a shovel. If you didn't shovel enough you didn't get enough money.

"You make good money in the mines now — it wasn't in those days I think we used to get around 85 cents a tonne to load it."


Retired coal shovelling champion Jimmy Parsons says coal mining jobs have been transformed by technology since the "old pick and shovel days".


Photo supplied by Norah Parsons

Inspired by 'One of the Greats'

In his 30 years of competition, Parsons won the world coal shoveling titles five times and was placed in the top three any other year.

"I entered it in '85 for a bit of a laugh and I ended up winning so I just continued from then," he said.

Lane trained with Parsons until he recently retired and said that is where he learnt his technique.

"Jimmy Parsons was one of the greats of shoveling. He had the world titles for 10 to 15 years," he said.

"He retired when he was 68 and the only reason he retired was because he popped a bicep!

"So at 68 years old and still keeping up with the young ones, it is a bit of inspiration for me.


"I'd like to think at 68 I'll still be shoveling coal."