Matthew Denny takes the long road to Rio

WINDING UP: Queenslander Matthew Denny competes in the men's discus throw during the Australian Athletics Championships in April.
WINDING UP: Queenslander Matthew Denny competes in the men's discus throw during the Australian Athletics Championships in April. Cameron Spencer

MATTHEW Denny is a big subscriber to the theory that if at first you don't succeed try, try ... try again. It's the attitude that got the young discus thrower on to the track and field team to compete in Rio - eventually.

Then still shy of his 20th birthday, the Queenslander claimed the national title in April, but missed a Games berth, his winning throw of 60.47m falling short of the 65m required to qualify.

With no more competition in Australia he jetted off to California - not once, but twice - in order to achieve the mark.

"I knew I could throw it because I'd thrown it plenty of times at training," Denny told Australian Regional Media. "It was just a matter of doing it in competition."

On his first trip to the States the best the 195cm, 118kg man-mountain could muster was a throw of 64.73m - still 27cm shy.

"Frustrating is pretty much the only word I can think of," he said.

"I just couldn't get it together on that trip."

Olympian Matthew Denny
Olympian Matthew Denny Gerard Walsh

But he did on the next. And so the kid from the tiny town of Allora, north of Warwick, secured his ticket to Rio, Brazil, in Salinas, California.

"I was going to go back no matter what," he said. "If I didn't get it the second trip I was going to find another place. But obviously that kind of attitude doesn't agree with my wallet ... the pocket was pretty much on fire."

Though one of the true rising stars of track and field, Denny wasn't about to cut his losses and instead aim for Tokyo 2020. His time may be then, but it's also now.

"For me, I have this problem of thinking I'm in the peak of my career. The reality is I'm only 20 and my peak age is supposed to be 28-32.

"I'll be the youngest in the field, which is pretty full on. Our main goal for Rio is to show that even though I'm young I can still throw well in the majors and can mix it with the big boys."

Coached by Grahame Pitt since 2009, Denny won gold in the discus at the World Youth Championships in 2013 and silver at the World University Games in 2015.

Matthew Denny and coach Grahame Pitt going through a training drill in 2013.
Matthew Denny and coach Grahame Pitt going through a training drill in 2013. Dave Noonan

"This is the first time I haven't gone in being one of the top dogs," he said. "Now that I'm one of the underdogs no one is really thinking about me. I don't think anyone that's older than me at the Olympics is really going to be too happy if I get their scalp."

Denny actually claimed the discus-hammer throw double at this year's nationals, becoming only the second to achieve the feat and first for 63 years.

His "ultimate dream" is to become the first man in history to claim the Olympic title in both.

But he says "at the moment, hammer is just on hold", in order to give himself the best chance in discus.

While he trains regularly in Toowoomba - an hour away - "I have my own circle at home so I can train here when I want. It's probably about 25m outside the front of the house."

There's been no broken windows yet, but "I hooked a couple of hammers on the power lines across the road", he said.

"They hung up there for a couple of weeks."

Soon the residents of Allora will be hanging on his every throw in Rio.

Topics:  matthew denny rio2016 sportfeature

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