Southland thrower Marshall Hall chasing Olympic dream
It would be a simple thing for Southland thrower Marshall Hall to put the discus down.
After all, the 30-year-old already has 10 national titles to his credit, is a new father and works two jobs while living in a busy city.
But then there’s Tokyo, and a burning desire fanned by a day two years ago which was one of the best of his life, and the worst.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Hall is a Southland boy through and through, despite these days being based in Auckland where he lives, works and trains at Kings College as a hostel tutor, as well as working fulltime supervising a team of social workers at Oranga Tamariki.
He’s competed for the Invercargill Athletics Club since he was four, was part of Academy Southland, and still proudly wears the Southland athletics singlet at national level.
He’s dominated New Zealand discus for the past decade; his run of 10 national titles broken only while he was rehabbing a shoulder injury and finished down the podium from some bloke called Tom Walsh.
Most of his family still live in Southland and he gets home when he can, especially now that the family has grown from two to three with the arrival of a baby boy four months ago.
By the time he was 15 he’d already reached most of his 202cm height, but it wasn’t until he arrived in Auckland after studying at Otago that he started to put on the weight which would allow him to reach his potential as a thrower.
Two years ago he’d peaked perfectly, earning a late inclusion into the New Zealand team for the 2017 world championships in London, secured selection for the Commonwealth Games, and was handed, for the first time, the coveted black singlet which is the enduring symbol of New Zealand athletics.
And then it all went wrong.
This is a story which Hall has been reluctant to tell because he’s been loathe to make excuses for what happened in London.
While warming up, in his final practice throw, he herniated a disc in his back.
On his last practice throw.
He knew immediately what had happened because he’d had similar back injuries in the past.
The pain was excruciating.
“I was thinking, ‘I probably shouldn’t compete, but I've worked my whole life to get here’, and I pulled on the black singlet and I competed,” he said.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life. Usain Bolt and Mo Farah were competing at the same time that I was throwing, you had 80,000 people all cheering. It was an unreal experience.”
Hall gritted his teeth and completed his three throws. The injury would also eventually rule him out of going to the Commonwealth Games. The next day he could barely walk, but the mental anguish was perhaps worse.
“I had my family, my friends and supporters all there and you just wanted to go really well. It was mentally very tough and coming away I was quite emotional at not competing so well - and not wanting to tell that story, because you don’t want to make excuses.
“It’s the Southland way, the Kiwi way, and a lot of people don’t know about this even now. It was tough, but I had the right people around me and deep down I knew that I’d done my best and people were proud of me.”
Hall’s competition singlet from London, complete with his name still pinned on it, is framed on a wall at his parent’s home in Invercargill. It takes up quite a bit of room considering it’s a 4XL, but Hall hopes to add another to it, this time from next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
To do that he needs to be one of the top 32 discus throwers in the world, either by throwing the A standard qualification distance of 66m or earning qualification points by performing well at the right events between now and Tokyo.
He continues to work with his United States-based coach Matt Dallow, the pair using the live video function on a social media platform for their training sessions.
Hall’s personal best is 64.55m. About half the Olympic field will have thrown the distance, with the other half qualifying through the points system.
“It’s a massive goal of mine and I guess if I didn’t think it was a reality then I wouldn’t see the point in competing. I’m going after it big time,” he said.