We are delighted to introduce to you Harry Hughes, a Great British javelin record holder and CEO of Dangler, in this EXCLUSIVE interview.
Harry was the first Javelin athlete to throw over 80m in 7 years, and has very recently had surgery on his elbow. However, recovery permitting, you should see him at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 (fingers crossed!)
Welcome Harry! We see that you grew up in the Suffolk countryside, what attracted you to Javelin as a sport?
Thank you! Funnily enough I can’t actually recall what attracted me to throwing the javelin all those years ago, I can remember vividly watching my brother train at the local athletics club every Tuesday and Thursday, and at the time I was 9 years old, and back then, athletics was a bigger sport locally than it is now, the size of the club has unfortunately dropped significantly, and it certainly isn’t as popular. But when I first started, it was a very busy club, and I knew I wanted to get involved, despite being so young, I asked my mum if I could try out javelin. I think in all honesty it just looked cool at the time. I joined the club soon after and gave it a go…little did I know that 14 years later I would still be throwing the javelin!
With your childhood consisting of javelin, discus, shot put and fishing, how did you make the decision to commit to javelin?
It was quite obvious at the time, even when I first picked up the implements, javelin was the most natural to me, so during my first few years in the sport I also competed in the discus and shot put, and I wasn’t bad at those events, but I just wanted to spend all of my time throwing the javelin, and I ended up always performing best in this event anyway. Fishing at the time was a hobby and a passion, but it didn’t have career potential and I had a love and desire for elite sport, so javelin became the obvious choice.
You’re also a passionate fisherman. How do you manage the balance between being a GB athlete and co-founding Dangler?
This is definitely the most difficult part for me. Trying to balance working full time on my own business (Dangler) and trying to qualify for the Olympics at the same time can be pretty tricky. But it’s all about managing your time sensibly and trying not to burn yourself out. During the winter I typically train twice a day (early morning before work, and then again after work). So as long as I’m prepared and organised it is mostly manageable, but you definitely do need to schedule in downtime and of course, be very flexible with timings.
Is there anything that you’ve taken from running Dangler with your brothers that you’ve applied to the competitive side of your life?
Definitely. Starting Dangler with my brothers has made me realise that it’s not all about the end goal, but actually enjoying the journey along the way is more important. Being able to take a step back, realise what you have achieved and where you have come from is something I’ve always struggled with, but starting Dangler has definitely taught me to appreciate the journey and the small wins. It’s also taught me to be more organised, I’ve always had to balance athletics and studying, which isn’t easy, but balancing athletics, studying and a full time business is another level, and I hard to learn how to balance and cope with that, which has definitely become one of my biggest lessons.
You are the first Brit to throw beyond 80 metres in the past 7 years, how much of an accomplishment was that for you considering the injuries you’ve come through?
It was a massive achievement at the time considering where I had come from. After years of injuries, and then the final blow of surgery and taking a year out from the sport, to be able to achieve that after such a negative run was one of the best moments I have ever experienced, so that really did mean a lot to me, but also to my coach and my family who have put a hell of a lot of time and effort into my career. It was a massive personal achievement, but as an accolade, it’s not too high in my list, because it’s actually disappointing that I’ve been the only Brit to throw over 80m in 7 years, I think it may be 8 years now, but it goes to show that the standard in the UK really isn’t high enough unfortunately.
How much did your training change in regard to the Covid-19 outbreak and postponement of Tokyo 2020? Is there anything you’ve been working on during lockdown?
I was very fortunate to have a private training base, that I had exclusive access to, which meant I could continue to train throughout lockdown, we had to keep changing the training plan itself as the competitions were regularly postponed or cancelled, but actually, it wasn’t too much of an issue. It essentially gave me a prolonged winer training period, and so when I should have been competing, I was throwing very far in training off of some rubber that we screwed into the grass, so it proved our plans were working. The postponement of Tokyo actually worked in my favour, especially with the injury that became apparent around the same time Tokyo would have been commencing, so it’s given me an extra year to prepare, make sure I’m fit and develop, so I can only take positives from it.
Having been through competitions, injuries, and now dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, what advice would you give to aspiring Olympians, whether it be javelin or other sports?
I think my advice is to be resilient, it’s easier said than done, but if you can adapt a stoic attitude to life, then you can try your best to make the best out of a bad situation. My career so far has been so volatile it’s untrue, with injury after injury, the setbacks I’ve experienced in business, and of course the ups and downs of competing, I’ve experienced such a rollercoaster of emotions, and what I’ve learnt is that if you can’t control it, then don’t worry about it. There’s always a positive to be found, with injuries it often makes the injured area stronger, or it gives you time to focus on other parts of your training which have been neglected. Either way, try and find the positives out of the negatives, and keep looking forward, don’t look back.
Despite being quite an individual sport, how important is it to have other competitors and coaches around you during training?
I happen to be quite an individual person anyway, so I fit my sport quite well. I have an extremely small circle around me, and that’s the way I like it. I often train alone, but if I can I’ll bring my brother along to spot me if I need it. The rest of my time in training is spent with my coach – Mark, who I speak to most days, if not every day, and we will always throw together, which I definitely need. So the need for a group training environment is pretty low, but the need for competitors is very high. I love pressured situations, and having high quality competitors brings out that pressure, and then I’m in my element. Having better throwers to chase is so key for me, so having the right competitors around me is vital.
We see you have a few idols in javelin. What aspects of the careers of Johannes Vetter and Mark Roberson do you try to bring into your own performances?
Johannes Vetter is one of those athletes that you look at and you can’t not be inspired by. A true athlete, that you can only look up to and hope that you can achieve just a part of what he has done. He’s genuinely incredibly humble with it too, and so you don’t just look at his performances in aspiration, but his demeanour too. Vetter provides me with true inspiration that if you sacrifice everything and work hard you can achieve things you never thought possible. Mark Roberson is my coach and best friend, and again, a true inspiration for me. Mark always had the potential to be an exceptional thrower, and throwing over 85m, he certainly was an amazing athlete, but unfortunately timing and luck weren’t always on his side, so I’m incredibly inspired by Mark to emulate him, but to also take it further and achieve what I know is possible, not just for me, but for Mark too.
And finally, have you unearthed any TV shows or movies that are simply unmissable?
Of course, my two favourite TV shows have to be Billions and Sons of Anarchy. They are two TV shows that I was really gripped by. As for movies…there’s just too many.