THERE were moments during the darkest days of Mark Dry’s injury lay-off when he wondered if he would ever return to athletics. Over the past couple of years, the hammer thrower has experienced the highest of making his Olympic debut but also the lows of having to learn to walk again following hip surgery that the 30 year-old feared would be career-ending.

“I definitely had times when I wondered if I would make it back,” he said. “You want to say you never doubted it but of course I did, absolutely. I was driven the whole way but there were quite a few points when I was learning to walk again, when I couldn’t tie my shoe laces, when I couldn’t bend over and when I couldn’t pick anything up off the floor that I had doubts.”

Dry’s hip issue had been long-standing. As early as the summer of 2015, he knew surgery was required but there was, he says, no way that he was going to sacrifice his chance of making the Olympic team by going under the knife. Five cortisone injections later, Dry made his Olympic debut but a further set-back, caused by a slip on a rainy Rio day, meant hip reconstruction was required. And just to rub salt in the wound, Dry had his funding withdrawn, leaving him to fend for himself. He set up his own business coaching athletics and providing sports massage but it was a rocky road.

He refused to be deterred though and while the early days of his rehab process proved testing, Dry fought his way back to something close to fitness. This time last year, he set off on a warm-weather training camp, which he knew would give an indication as to whether he would have a future in the sport or not. It was, he admits, a time of severe apprehension.

“I felt that if I didn’t throw far enough, I was going to have to quit,” he said. “It was pretty emotional and stressful thinking that could be the end. All this effort then suddenly bang, done, goodbye - that would have been pretty horrible.”

Dry is too dogged to give in to injury though and while he narrowly missed out on selection for the British team for the London World Championships last summer, he is now in a good place. Having been named in the athletics team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which kick-off in Gold Coast in April, he is champing at the bit to get back into competitive action.

The Loughborough-based thrower won bronze at Glasgow 2014 and will travel to Australia looking to add to his medal collection. Winning silverware for Team Scotland is motivation enough but Dry has the extra motivation of confounding those who believed that he was finished in the sport, most notably British Athletics.

“I absolutely want to prove people wrong – that’s my biggest strength or it might be my biggest downfall,” he said. “I’m far too stubborn to let go of a grudge which is a bit of a problem for me but it gets me through a lot of stuff. I do have a lot to prove. A lot of the British Athletics staff aren’t medical professionals but they thought I was done. That was part of the reason I was kicked off funding. My surgeon was completely happy that I was going to recover from surgery but non-medical British Athletics staff said otherwise so that’s why I was ejected from the programme.”

A minor hip operation last year - more of a clean-up really - was another set-back and while Dry may not be lacking in motivation he is constantly battling against his body. The hammering his body has taken over the past decade-or-so in elite sport has taken its toll and so every day is a struggle – but his stubbornness does not allow him to quit.

“I’m in agony all the time, it’s awful,” he said. “Trying to manage that is the hardest thing because my heart rate is off the chart. But I’m used to being in pain all the time so it’s fine and things are going really well since surgery. My physio calls me Wolverine because he has no idea how I’m recovering so quickly.”

Dry has learned lessons in the past about attempting to come back too quickly and won’t make that mistake this time. But he is already thinking about Gold Coast and the prospect of grabbing a spot on the podium, although he is loath to make any grand predictions.

“I’m a big believer in karma and while I don’t believe in many things, I don’t like running your mouth and saying X, Y and Z,” he said. “No doubt we’re all going there to medal and it’s going to be an unbelievable competition because it’s so tightly packed. It’s the same as Glasgow 2014, I’ve got every chance of coming sixth to eighth or else I could pick up a medal or win it – anybody at the top can bomb out or just drop a little bit to leave it wide open, there is no massive gap between anybody. When you trade off everybody’s experience to personal best, to style, to everything else, it is literally wide open. So absolutely I want to medal, as does everyone else. I’ll never be under more pressure than I was in Glasgow and that is the huge benefit that that gives me experience-wise. But one thing is for sure – if I’m not healthy that is going to make things a lot harder. I’m the most experienced thrower out of everybody that is going to be there so I just need to be healthy and ready and then we’ll see what happens.”