MARK Dry’s Olympic hopes are set to go the distance after the Moray hammer ace threw two personal bests in the space of a month.
The Burghead athlete twice passed the Olympic B qualifying standard needed to put him in contention for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in this summer’s London Games.
Now Dry (24) must stay ahead of his main rivals in forthcoming Olympic trial competitions to achieve his ultimate dream of being selected for the GB team.
His first PB came in a tournament in California held during an American training stint last month when he threw 74.37 metres in his first event since the qualifying period opened.
And, last weekend, Dry went even further with a 74.88 throw to win the Loughborough international, only hours after jetting back from another competition in Halle, Germany.
Both career highs, combined with an opportunity to compete at one of this summer’s new Olympic venues, has given Dry the impetus to push as hard as he possibly can to impress the selectors.
Only one hammer thrower can be chosen for the British Olympic team at B standard, and the Moray powerhouse has strong opposition in the shape of friend – and rival – Alex Smith, who will be equally determined to qualify.
“I’m far from home and dry yet,” said Loughborough-based Dry. “With four competitions left to run, Alex is hitting more good form so it’s likely it’ll all come down to trials.
“But pressure is a privilege and I’d rather be in with a shout than out of the picture.”
Dry’s latest big throw placed him ninth on the all-time UK hammer list, and on current form he looks destined to break through the 75 metre barrier soon.
Next target is the all-time Scottish hammer record set by Dry’s former coach, Chris Black, with the Moray man just 58cm off the mark.
He will give it his best shot at the Frankish Crumbach meeting in Germany this weekend, which is followed by the Scottish Championships, a British League meet then a weekend off before the big Olympic trials.
Dry threw exactly two metres further than his closest rival to achieve his new PB on Sunday, a vital result knowing it could come down to his head-to-head record with his English rival to decide which man makes the team.
Earlier this month, Dry was given a flavour of the summer’s London Games when he was invited to take part in the BUCS Championships over two days at the official Olympic Park – and emerged as winner in both the qualifier and the final.
“Most importantly I beat Alex in both,” he said. “It’s a shame because we’re good mates, but that’s got to be my goal to keep these head-to-head wins up.
“Alex currently has no current Olympic Bs and I’ve beaten him head-to head on every occasion in the qualifying period (since April 1), though he did beat me twice before it.”
But if Smith does manage his two qualifying throws, it is likely to come down to the trials performances, though even these are not officially verified and the final decision is with the British head coach and his panel as to which hammer man makes the team.
“So from here on in its pressure off me for now and more on Alex,” Dry reckoned. “For now I should allow the break to loosen me off and hopefully find some more distance and consolidate on those Bs.
“Not becoming complacent is going to be key and just getting in shape for trials.”
Between the thrill of competing at the prestigious venue and his success in America, where he trained at state-of-the-art facilities near San Diego, it has been a great year so far for the Moray man.
On his London experience, he said: “The whole area has a buzz about it. The closer you get the busier it is, and there’s a great public atmosphere around the place.”
Dry’s hectic schedule continued last weekend with a trip to Germany to take part in the famous Halle throws competition alongside the world’s elite hammer competitors.
Finishing fifth in a world-class field with a throw only inches below the Olympic B mark of 74 metres was no disgrace, but there was even better to come.
After catching a flight that evening to arrive at 2am in Britain he made it to Loughborough for a record-breaking performance which keeps him on course for his second crack at competing in a major games competition.
Last year, he represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, finishing sixth in the final despite his preparations being hampered by glandular fever.
He is a former Elgin AAC athlete and Moray rugby player whose parents still live in Burghead, where he was brought up.