athlete

Hammer Thrower Gets Second Shot at Olympics

Conor McCullough, 25, takes after his two-time Olympic father in the hammer throw. He hopes to qualify for the Rio Olympics in Wednesday's Track and Field Trials

An athlete who barely missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in hammer throw has a shot at redemption at the 2016 Olympic Track and Field trials this week.

Conor McCullough, 25, admitted he was "heartbroken" after getting fourth in the 2012 Olympic trials, just shy of a berth onto the Olympic team.

"I just told myself that I was young, and that this is an old man's sport, and that I gotta keep at it," he said.

Currently ranked fifth in the country, McCullough will compete again Wednesday evening in one of the Games' oldest sports in the hope of qualifying for Rio.

Though the event may evoke an image of a burly athlete wielding a hammer like Thor for this event, size is not needed to be successful and the hammer they throw looks nothing like a hammer.

The "hammer" is a cannonball attached to a string, which is spun around and thrown as far as possible. Success in the event is measured by distance thrown. McCullough is considered a relative newbie to the event; most athletes compete well into their 30s and 40s.

McCullough remembers watching the Olympics for the first time and realizing his dream.

"To be up on that stage, in front of the whole world -- that would be amazing," he said.

McCullough tried many sports throughout his childhood, choosing the family business of hammer throw when he turned 12. His father competed himself in the hammer toss in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.

"I am more than excited, I'm delighted," McCullough's father said. "Everyone always asked, 'Are you gonna teach that kid the hammer?' I said, 'Yeah, one day.'"

McCullough began practicing under his father's coaching with a tennis ball on a string because he couldn't handle the weight of the real thing. Now, McCullough has surpassed his father's personal best and hopes to attend as many, if not more, Olympic games. 

Dad's job is to make sure his son keeps his cool.

"Being like Dad was always something to strive for and I'm still striving," McCullough said.

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