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Southland athlete Marshall Hall is on the road to Rio. Current and six time New Zealand discus champion, Hall is hoping to represent his country at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August next year.

Now based in Auckland, Hall is part of the New Zealand High Performance throwing squad under the wing of coach Matt Dallow. However, he returned to the south last month to attend a quiz night 
fundraiser organised by his family, which would help Hall fund the campaign ahead.

He said he was grateful for all the support he received in Southland, not only from friends and family, but also from the Community Trust of Southland and the Invercargill Licensing Trust. A Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) National Diploma in Business Level 5 student, SIT also began to sponsor Hall this year.

Discus throwing involved a lot of international travel to get to competitions and find the right conditions, he said. "Throwing far in discus is really dependent on really good winds, heat and things like that."

To qualify for next year's Olympics, Hall had to finish in the top 32 in the world, he said. "You've got to nudge yourself into the top 32 and then you get an invite from the International Olympic committee." This would then need to be approved by the New Zealand Olympic Board of Selectors, as the qualifying athletes also needed to meet their standard, he said.

With a successful season behind him, Hall was hopeful things might fall into place. "I'm on track, this season was my best one yet."

He said he threw his personal best, 59.87m, at the Oceania Champs in Cairns, Australia. "I broke the Oceania record with that throw, then unfortunately just got beaten by someone else, so it was a pretty awesome competition."

His most recent event was the World University Games in South Korea last month, where he finished ninth. Unfortunately the weather wasn't in his corner, with a typhoon bringing strong winds and rain to the country. Hall said he was about 6m down on his best throw. "I still pulled out ninth, so I was pretty happy with that."

Now in winter training, Hall said he would build up from about January for next year's competitions.

Hall said he has been participating in athletics since he was 4. Discus became his premier event following a "process of elimination" due to his height - now standing 2metres tall.

After participating in the sport casually, Hall said he broke the Southland discus record at 17. He extended this record by more than 16m this year, bumping him up to fifth all time in New Zealand.

However, not everything has gone to plan along the way. "I've had about four winters of training where I haven't actually been able to put everything I can into it, which has been frustrating."

Hall said he started training quite hard during his first year at the University of Otago.  Then a bout of injuries hit, with damage including a broken foot, and back, shoulder and knee surgery.

Also a top basketball player, Hall said he decided to give this up following the back surgery to focus on discus.

"I just really had a passion for athletics and the individual side of the sport.  Everything comes down to you basically, and what you put in is what you get out, you don't have to rely on someone else in the team."

However, things are looking better now. "The past two and a half years in Auckland I've been injury free and I'm sort of getting into the best nick of my life." 

Using the technology at the high performance training facility in Auckland had also helped Hall up his game.

The throwing circle had cameras, he said, which gave athletes visual and analytical feedback about their throw.  Because it was indoors, athletes also didn't need to worry about the conditions.

"It's the extra 1% that's going to help someone get to the next level." Training six days a week, Hall is always busy.  A social worker for the Ministry of Social Development in Auckland, he said he starts work at 7.30am. "I finish at 4pm and then travel from Auckland City to North Shore to train up there until the sun goes down."

It would be a tough ask to get to the Olympics, Hall said, but he's hoping to make the dream come true one day. "The last two years I saw that dream could become a reality.  I was always focusing on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but things were going so well that's made [Rio] realistic, which is great."

He said discus throwers tended to peak in their early to mid-30s, so he was looking forward to 2024 as well. "They call it the old man's sport of athletics because it takes so long to get things right and build that strength... I'm definitely looking to those next eight years.  You're only young once, so you've got to take those opportunities.''

Amy Johnstone - The Southland Express 12/8/2015

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