With a place on the Olympic team within touching distance, hammer thrower Mark Dry sees a long-term future in the sport
Until recently, hammer thrower Mark Dry was intent on giving up the sport at the end of this year. But with the Olympics just a matter of weeks away, the 24-year-old now sees a long-term future in the sport through to the 2017 World Championships and beyond.
Dry has progressed steadily since breaking 70 metres for the first time three years ago. After throwing a PB of 74.82m at the recent Loughborough International, Dry now finds himself in line for Olympic selection.
He is not surprised by his improved form, though. Having already moved in 2007 from his family home in the Scottish highlands to live in Glasgow and train in Edinburgh with Chris Black, Dry moved further south in 2009 to Loughborough to be guided by Derek Evely, training alongside UK record-holder Sophie Hitchon.
“I went from working 8am-4pm then driving from Glasgow to Edinburgh a few times a week for a couple of hours’ training where I’d have 30-40 throws,” Dry told AW. “Now I live just 10 minutes from the track where I have 40 throws a day, and I get proper rest and recovery between my two sessions each day. I was always going to get better here.
“I knew that training full-time and working with Derek was my best shot of making London, so to be one of the few male British hammer throwers to have a chance of making it to the Games, it’s given me so much drive,” he added. “It would be unbelievable, it would be everything I’ve ever wanted to do in athletics.”
But despite having made the sacrifice of moving almost 500 miles away from his family home, Dry was contemplating hanging up his hammer after the London Games. “I always thought I was going to quit the sport after London, whether I made the team or not,” he revealed. “I was considering going back to rugby and doing other things, but I’ve changed my mind now. The way training has been going and the way I’ve changed my outlook on my programme – not that I didn’t believe in it before – but it would be a shame for all that work to have gone to waste.
“I’m a lot more confident now and I do believe I’ve got a decent future so I’d love to push for medals at major championships,” he added. “Qualifying for a home Games is a good start, but one day I’d like to be a champion. I know it’s a cliché and everyone says it, but it’s why we do it.”
Dry was just eight years old when Britain last sent a male hammer thrower to the Olympics. In the post-war era, Britain’s best result in the men’s hammer at the Olympics is seventh by Dry’s former coach, Black, at the 1976 Games.
The 2010 Commonwealth finalist is now looking to follow in those footsteps, but domestic arch rival Alex Smith is also hot on his heels in the race to make it on to the Olympic team. “It’s a shame we can’t both go as we’re good friends, but only one athlete can go with the B standard,” said Dry.
Last weekend Dry won the Scottish title with 74.59m – the second-best throw of his career and his third Olympic B standard this season.
“All I know is that I’m now selectable. The only thing I can do is keep banging out the big throws, and I don’t plan on being outside the top two at the Trials. At least if we qualify and manage to pull one out with those three throws, there’s a chance we could make the final, which hasn’t happened for a while.”
At the past three global championships, a throw in the range of 75.30m-75.40m has been enough to make it into the hammer final. Dry has those kind of distances in sight this year, with a view to throwing much farther by the time of the 2017 World Championships in London.
“The Scottish record, 75.40m, is my next aim – that would be a lovely benchmark,” said Dry of the mark held by his former coach. “I think 76m would be a good jump up, and the British record is 77.54m, which I’d love to get this year, but I’ve got to be realistic and if I tighten up and try to chase distances too much, that’s been a downfall of mine in the past.
“With the 2014 Commonwealths being in my home country, I’d love to win that, but there’ll be a full Scottish team, a full English team and a few Aussies and Canadians so that will be a biggie,” he added. “Olympic year in 2016 would be fantastic and I’d be looking for an A standard by then, which would put me in the hunt for a medal.
“Another big thing for me is the 2017 Worlds, another major event on home soil. I just need to stay consistent, bring it in the bigger competitions, and gain more experience.”