MARK Dry has rubbed shoulders with royalty and met his own sporting hero on the back of his Commonwealth Games bronze medal success.
The Moray hammer ace said representing Team Scotland on home soil heaped incredible pressure on his powerful shoulders, but gave him the greatest athletics experience of his life.
From unknown Olympics reject to national hero, Dry (26) is being recognised wherever he goes, and is still coming to terms with his overnight fame.
He told the ‘Northern Scot’ how the memorable 71.64 metre throw last Tuesday which earned him his podium place has also changed his life, and made him determined to chase even more sporting dreams.
Dry revealed how he considered quitting his sport, but now wants to go on and win more medals and break records in the future.
“What it means to me now is incredible. I just couldn’t be happier,” he said. “Having people tell you how proud they are of you being on that podium in a kilt and showing your emotions, you just can’t describe it.
“It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience because something like that will never happen to me again. I’m never going to be in that position again getting a medal in my own country, and that’s what made it so special.
“When it was all over, I did think about what I’m going to do now. I’ve had so much frustration in this sport, so where would I go from here.
“But I feel there’s so much unfinished business. I think I can get in more medal positions and I’ve got too much to give still. I don’t want to stop before the Scottish record or the British record, I want to move forward and make it happen.”
Winning the bronze in Glasgow brought great emotion to Dry, particularly when he ran over to embrace his family, who had come down from Moray to cheer him on.
The success has also made him a TV star who has dined with First Minister Alex Salmond, become recognised by Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy and met with Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
“It’s been a crazy week for me. I was on Question of Sport and live television and radio,” he said. “Will, Kate and Harry did a visit to the athlete’s village and ended up coming around the Scotland accommodation.
“I met a lot of people, but most importantly for me, I met Sir Chris Hoy and he was wishing me good luck. He’s someone who has represented his country so well, a great guy who’s a perfect role model to everyone.
“I might not have won six Olympic gold medals, but to be well known by people like him was just awesome.”
Dry, a former Burghead primary and Lossie High pupil, may now live in Loughborough but will always consider Moray to be his home.
His parents still live in Moray, and made the trip to Glasgow, along with his two sisters, to watch his greatest sporting day.
Greeting them at Hampden was a joyous experience, while he said having a capacity stadium cheering him into the arena was both the most exhilarating and frightening experience of his life.
“I was lucky enough to see my family after the competition, when I ran over to them right at the side of the track.
“The competition was so stressful and I had been under so much pressure that there were a lot of emotions spilling out.
“That whole crowd was just amazing and I loved them to bits, but it was hard to keep your nerve and not over-boil on the occasion. I was so buzzing with the whole competition, but having 48,000 just screaming at you as you’re going in, I’ve never been in a position like that before.
“Should it ever happen again I’ll be more prepared. But there’s not going to be a harder competition for me ever again. There might be in terms of distance, but there will never be a higher pressure competition than that.”
Dry said the Scotland Commonwealth Games team was the greatest he has ever been a part of, and the atmosphere in the camp helped him to cope with the pressures.
He was one of 53 athletes in the squad to claim a medal, many of them like himself completely unknown before the games got underway.
Now he considers gold medal heros like judo star Euan Burton and swimmer Dan Wallace to be good friends who he will keep in touch with.
“It’s absolutely hands down the best team I have been in and probably ever will be part of. The ones who had finished competing would come down to the track, waving their flags and going nuts for everyone who had still to compete.”
The Moray athlete admitted he was overwhelmed by the response of the fans inside Hampden to his own success.
While he expected the likes of athletics girls like silver-winning pair Eilidh Child and Lynsey Sharp to attract all the attention, Dry was amazed how many people wanted to meet him. “They would be asking me for my photo and I was saying ‘Eilidh and Lynsey are over there, don’t you want your photo with them?’ But it was fantastic and makes you feel really proud.
“The amount of messages I got was unbelievable, My phone hasn’t stopped and I’ve had to charge it constantly. When folk tell you what you did was one of their highlights, I can’t get over it and I can’t explain how great it is to be in this situation. It’s a real privilege.”
His medal achievement has helped to exorcise the demons of two years ago when he was dumped on the Olympics scrapheap by the GB selectors. Englishman Alex Smith was chosen ahead of him, the man he beat into fourth place in Glasgow. “I’m still annoyed about it because I felt it was the wrong decision, and I still do. But I knew I had Glasgow to look forward to.
“To go there and get a medal has pretty much written off what happened with the Olympics. I can put it to bed now.
“Nothing in London could have beaten the spirit of this Scotland team. Everyone tried their best and some ran PBs or got national records, some bombed out and some did alright. Some were lucky enough that if you did alright, it got you a medal while others threw out of their skin and came eighth.
“I’m proud of everybody that was in the team and it was just great to be a part of. It’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”