This summer, CHRIS BENNETT was planning on competing in his second Olympics. Instead, as a grocery delivery man, he worked more than 40 hours per week.
But the top hammer thrower in Scotland is overjoyed with the fact that not only is he physically in the shape of his life, but he is also in the strongest mental shape he’s been in for years.
Bennett had every hope of securing a spot on Team GB for Tokyo 2020 at the beginning of 2020, but an illness put a spanner in the works in February. So Bennett was able to take a breath when word leaked out that the Tokyo Games would have to be delayed for a year due to the pandemic.
“When we imposed the ban, I was 24 kilos and my fighting weight was 19 kilos,” says the 30-year-old.
“I got on the scale one day and it showed me 154 kilos, and I was like, ‘This can’t be, this scale must be wrong!’ ‘But it wasn’t, and that’s when I thought,’ That’s right, I have to repair myself here.
I was sitting down with my coach and talking about what I had to do. It was hard during the lockout because I worked – I needed the cash because my usual job of doing school visits stopped and I still owed a lot of cash – but I was still motivated.
“Between June and early October, I lost 22 pounds and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in four or five years.”
It is quite a contrast from how he felt only a few years ago that Bennett feels such passion for his sport. It was in 2018 when he reached rock bottom, after his second Commonwealth Games.
He finished tenth after travelling to Australia with medal hopes. He recalls sitting alone at the airport waiting for his flight home, with his mind racing through some very dark thoughts.
‘I was very close to throwing it all away, and 2018 was very, very bad for me in particular,’ he remembers.
“I remember having really stupid thoughts in my head after the Commonwealth Games – things like, did I even want to be here anymore?”
He was, admits Bennett in retrospect, sad. He would never have spoken about his emotions back then, although today the Glaswegian finds it much easier to speak about his issues.
At the 2019 British Championships, it was his fifth-place finish that made him realize he needed to change his attitude. He was perfectly satisfied with his fifth position, he admits, and that, he realized, was a problem.
“Now I look back and think, what the hell was I playing at when I was satisfied with fifth place? You have to have that burning desire, or else what’s the point?” he said.
“I had to get that respect back for myself – I was better than I showed.”
It was the realization that Bennett wanted a rut that he was trapped in, and the shift in attitude from then to now is serious.
Bennett placed second at the British Championships in September, and he was sorely dissatisfied with the silver medal even though it was a last-minute decision and he was competing without competitive experience.
“I’ve got the drive back – I don’t have to struggle out of bed to go to training anymore,”I’ve got the drive back — I don’t have to struggle out of bed anymore to go to training.
I have always had long breaks after the end of the season in recent years, but I was keen to get back into it after the British Championships.
My mental health is still dealing with me, but now I have the coping skills to cope with it.
I got the kick up the backside that I needed. People have been asking me for a couple of years why I was still doing it, and now I think I do it because I’m pretty darn good at it.
“I let the stuff slide. That’s my own fault, and I can’t go back to those years, but I’ve stopped looking back now, and I’m just looking forward to the future.
The future for Bennett is focused on finding a seat next summer on the plane to Tokyo. And he knows that he’ll feel very different when he gets there than he did when he made his Olympic debut four years ago in Rio.
“When I get to Tokyo, I’ll feel like I deserve it,” he said.
“I did not feel like I deserved it in Rio.
“I put in a lot of effort to get on the team and whatever happens, I’ll know I couldn’t have done more. And that’s what it’s all about.”