Scotland will be represented by three athletes in a six-strong GB and NI team at the European Cup Winter Throws event in Portugal later this month.
And it will mean first GB vests for Team Scotland duo Chris Bennett and Rachel Hunter – as they join Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Mark Dry in the selection by British Athletics.
Shettleston Harriers athlete Bennett, 12th in the final at Hampden last summer, threw a PB of 73.00m at a specially-arranged competition at Livingston on Saturday to prove his form.
Hunter, who came through the ranks with Ayr Seaforth, is second on the Scottish all-time list and finished seventh at the Glasgow 2014 final last summer when still aged 20. Now 21, Rachel is the only woman selected by GB for Portugal and will compete in the U23 hammer at the European event.
It is a terrific boost for hammer-throwing in Scotland and Bennett believes the late Alan Bertram’s legacy is being felt in the discipline.
‘It is great to get my first GB vest and to have early season form recognised,’ said Chris, with Englishman Bertram the coaching guru who led event-specific training and competition in hammer in Scotland for a number of years before his death in 2013.
‘I think for three Scottish athletes to be involved in this is really good for the event here. We all came through the system devised and led by Alan Bertram a number of years ago – the Hammer Development Days, the Hammerama events – and I think it has been shown that these initiatives have worked. Maybe there is a model there for other parts of the sport . . .
‘I took about a week off after Hampden to decide what to do next. I probably made the mistake of getting too wrapped up in the whole competition; the big crowd, trying to do well for Scotland and for my family and friends.
‘It was a real pity because the way I had been throwing in 2014 just wasn’t reflected in my performance at Hampden.
‘That’s not going to happen again come the Gold Coast in 2018 and I have to look ahead and think positive. This is a first GB vest – which is great for my family – but I have to be looking to try and get to that level in a major championships.
‘The qualifying distance for the World Champs is 76m. That’s a big distance but I have to start thinking that it is something to aim for. The Commonwealth Games should not be the be all and end all for Scottish athletes.’
Rachel was just as ecstatic and sees the trip as a good platform with the European U23 event in Estonia in the summer as another looming goal.
‘I am really delighted to have been selected and it will be a special moment to wear a GB international vest – my coach Chris Black has said all along that to compete for Britain would be a huge honour,’ she said.
‘I’ve been in throwing for five years now and, in 2013, people were telling me I wouldn’t make the Commonwealths. But I did and now this – and I qualified as a nurse a couple of weeks ago, as well, so it is all happening at the minute!
‘This gives me a taste of it and competing for GB at something like the Euro U23s is another target for me. Portugal gives me a chance to get experience of throwing for GB so hopefully that helps me.’
The European Winter Throws event will be held in Leiria, Portugal over the weekend of March 14-15.
Full Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for European Cup Winter Throws:
Zane Duquemin (John Hillier)
Mark Dry (Tore Gustafsson); Chris Bennett
Zane Duquemin (John Hillier)
Greg Thompson (Neville Thompson)
Taylor Campbell (Paul Dickenson)
Rachel Hunter (Chris Black)
The event will be broadcast live on Vinco here: https://www.vincosport.com/meetings/6592-european-cup-winter-throwing