Being awarded UniSport Australia’s 2019 Male Athlete of the Year has given elite athlete, Olympian and Griffith Bachelor of Business student Matthew Denny something to smile about again, after his preparations for this year’s Olympics were completely thrown into chaos thanks to COVID-19.
The discus and hammer thrower, who was part of Australia’s 2016 Olympic team in Rio and won silver in the hammer throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, was well on track for Tokyo when coronavirus broke out.
“The award has definitely given me a bit more pep in my step today and I’m really grateful to receive it considered all the great performances that have happened this year by student athletes,” Denny said.
Griffith Sports College Director Duncan Free OAM said Matt was a remarkable athlete.
“Watching his journey for the past few years has been incredible and I’m sure, inspiring for anyone,” Free said.
“To see Matt develop into the athlete he is today is a testament of his commitment and character. This award is certainly well deserving.”
Its been a tough time for many athletes in recent months and Denny said the uncertainty initially was hard to deal with.
“That first three weeks, everyone was in shock and it was really weird. Queensland Track Classic was cancelled and Nationals were cancelled and then the Olympics were cancelled, all in three weeks!”
“I remember I went in to gym the day after they cancelled the Olympics and it was a pretty sad room, to say the least.
“We went to training, with my coach and biomechanist and we sat there for ten minutes and just looked at each other. We just couldn’t believe it what was going on.”
Like most athletes Denny’s life was planned to the nth degree, counting down to an Olympic personal best. His training, nutrition, attendance at various international events was finely tuned to ensure peak performance when it counted.
He was studying business part-time at Griffith to ensure he had enough time for everything else… when suddenly it all ground to a halt.
Last week he was meant to be competing in Switzerland but that was before the pandemic.
In fact his last competition of the season pre COVID, an Oceania Circuit meet between Australia and New Zealand in Hamilton, produced a Personal Best (PB)…. but he hasn’t competed since.
“This was a year where I was really supposed to step up,” he admitted.
“I ended up throwing a PB in a condition we didn’t think was possible because we were trying a new training program.
“When I threw the PB we were ahead of schedule, and then we wanted test when we came out of that but all the corona stuff happened and it was pretty hard to be motivated to throw far because Olympics is now 15 months away.
“To throw at the best of your ability you have to be really wired and know exactly what you want to do and why you’re doing it.”
The UniSport Australia award couldn’t have come at a better time, with the usually focused athlete in need of a boost.
“I actually didn’t think I would win considering all the other athletes,” he said.
“I had a big year but there were some other athletes that would be very, very close if not better.”
Denny continues his business studies online through Griffith and is training hard from home, but is eager for facilities to reopen so he and his team can really get to work on his new goal of Tokyo 2021.
Each year, UniSport receives nominations from its university members around Australia to recognise and reward outstanding achievements and performances from student-athletes and officials in the Australian and International sport sectors.
A total of 79 nominations were received for the 2019 awards, acknowledging the incredible achievements of Australia’s student athletes and officials.