Athletics: meet Scotland's Chris Bennett

After a strong start to the outdoor season, Team Scotland's Chris Bennett is only weeks away from a potential medal in the hammer throw at the Commonwealth Games in his home city.

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Chris, 24, competes for Shettleston Harriers and has made an impressive start to the season; throwing a Scottish Men's League record of 71.37metres in his opening competition of the season in Aberdeen.

He followed that up with a throw of 70.34metres at the European Club Cup in Portugal.

The Glasgow-born athlete seemed in good spirits ahead of the Games.

He said: "It's getting quite hectic. I'm down in London training pretty much every weekend, meaning I don't have much time to myself at the moment."

He added: "Training's going pretty well, I've had a couple of wee niggles the past few months.

"I had tonsillitis then I had a problem with my shoulder but apart from that everything is hunky-dory and I'm ready to rumble."

However in the past year his preparation and training have changed drastically due to the death of his coach Alan Bertram MBE.

Consequently, Chris now has a new coach and trains with Mike Jones, who himself was coached by the legendary Bertram, and who helped him win the 2002 Commonwealth hammer gold in Manchester.

Chris said: "We've made quite a few changes; weights are still the same but a lot of the other stuff regarding throwing is different, in particular there are a lot of technical changes.

"It's been quite different the way we have trained this year but it's been good and it's paid off."

It's no secret that there is an added pressure for athletes competing in front of a home crowd.

Despite this, Chris appeared to be enthused by the prospect of the Glasgow crowd at Hampden.

He said: "The fact I come from Glasgow and there will be 45,000 people there watching, many of whom are Glaswegians, makes it special.

"It's something pretty surreal that I'm never going to experience again in my life; it spurs you on a little bit."

He added: "People talk about it being pressure but it's not, it's just added incentive.

"They don't want you to fail, it's not pressure; I see it as an opportunity rather than pressure.

"It's never going to happen in our lifetime again so you just need to embrace it."

Although the crowd will be a significant factor in Glasgow, the hammer is an extremely technical event where there is a fine line between success and failure.

A thrower's technique as well as the weather conditions can be the key in determining how they fare in a competition.

Chris said: "It's a lot of technical, keeping your nerve under the pressure of competition and staying focused.

"You can't try and rush it [your throw], you have to be patient and just let it happen and almost make it feel effortless."

He added: "When it feels effortless it's probably going to go far but when you try to muscle it and smash it out the park it isn't going to go far at all."

Although his new personal best of 71.37metres would have won him a bronze medal in 2010 at the Delhi games, Chris is refusing to get carried away about the prospect of a podium finish in Glasgow.

He stated adamantly: "Listen people are talking about 71metres being a medal last time, but let's just put it in perspective.

"If I can go on the day and perform to my best then anything can happen.

"It's shown in the last couple of Commonwealth Games where if you are throwing 71, 72, 73metres you are in amongst the medals."

He added: "You know what, if I am in amongst the medals throwing that then I will be happy, and if it's not enough and I still throw a personal best on the day I can't exactly be disappointed about it.

"You go out, you perform on the day, do what you can do and if that's not good enough then fair enough, but if it is, happy days."

Chris will be a medal contender in Glasgow; nevertheless he seemed well aware that he faces competition not only from athletes from other countries but also from his fellow Team Scotland competitors.

He said: "There are two Scottish guys Mark Dry and Andy Frost.

"Mark was ranked number one in the Commonwealth last year and Andy was ranked number four or five.

"There are also a couple of guys from England [Nick Miller and Alex Smith].

"You have the South African [Chris Harmse] who won it in 2010 and a Canadian [James Steacy] who won a silver medal at Melbourne.

"The guys you are looking out for are those from the Home Nations in my eyes, they are the ones that are used to performing in these climates."

It was interesting to discover that Chris also has a number of superstitious routines prior to a competition.

He paused for thought before answering: "I'll always train the morning of the competition so I will always do six or seven throws the morning of that competition.

"I also normally stay in the same hotel before competitions and I will always eat at the one restaurant; stupid wee things to keep me in a routine.

He laughed then added: "Maybe shaving my legs before a competition as well, I tend to do that quite a bit.

"I don't know why but it seems to be becoming the norm now; it's a weird one to do."

Chris will be hoping that his strong start to the season will continue and that it will culminate in a medal winning performance inside Hampden Stadium at Glasgow 2014.

The Hammer Throw competition begins on Sunday, July 27 with the final taking place the evening after on Monday, July 28.

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