Darrell Hill ahead of the Doha Diamond League 2019 (© Michelle Sammet)
by Darrell Hill
They say a dream written down becomes a goal, so this year – for the first time ever – I decided to give it a go.
During the off-season, I had a lot of time to reflect on success, figuring out ways to achieve what I want. One my friends suggested I should write down my goals, putting a vision board up so I’ll be able to see them every day.
So I gave it a try.
Before, I had always struggled with that idea because I associated goals and marks with limits. I didn't like putting limitations on myself, but I began to realise the value in writing them down – it turns it from a hope to a mission, a wish to a goal.
What are my goals? I won’t lie: one is to be the world champion. I'm not afraid to say it.
I'm sure it's the same goal a lot of people have, but to achieve it with the current climate in the shot put I know you have to be at a very, very high level.
Some people could be put off by that, but it’s something I'm truly thankful for because I know it’s challenging me to see just how great I can be. I don't know if I could be as good as I am if the competition wasn’t as steep.
But I know, too, that no matter how well you plan, life often has a different path in store for you.
After all, falling in love with track and field wasn’t ever my ambition as a kid, but here I am today, grateful for the opportunity.
Football was the first dream, the NFL, and it’s funny, but with my physique not a day goes by where I don’t get asked about it. Flying to Doha for my first Diamond League meet of the season, it was the first thing I was asked on the plane: do you play football?
Not anymore. I still love the game, but a long time ago the loyalty to the people who believed in me is what kept me here, in track and field.
I grew up in Darby, just outside Philadelphia, and was the youngest of six kids – something that really toughens you up. We never had much growing up, but to me that’s the beauty of this sport. It’s one where we can remove socio-economic status, wealth, poverty – if you are at the starting line, you have the opportunity to be equal, truly.
It’s a true test of what you have on the inside, the work that you do. Coming from riches or success can sometimes limit you because you don’t have the inner hunger that drives people to be successful.
When I started out, I never would have thought I’d make the Olympics, but here I am, training hard and getting ready – hopefully – for my second Games next year.
This sport has allowed me to travel to all different places and meet all these different people, helped me develop as an individual and changed my view of the world – it’s also shown me the kindness of others.
That was made clear in 2016, when I made the team for Rio.
My Dad, Ellis, wasn’t planning to go because of the costs, but while working as an Uber driver a few weeks before the Games he picked up a woman who had a friend competing in Rio in swimming.
He told her about me and she promised to help, setting up a GoFundMe page to cover my Dad’s travel costs and, with more than 150 people donating, he made it to Rio to watch me compete.
But as special as that was, when I think back on my performance it hurts. I threw 21.63m to make the team but in Rio I only threw 19.56m. It was over almost as soon as it began.
I try not to regret anything, I can always take losing, but if I feel like I didn’t give my best it’s the kind of thing that really haunts you.
But in hindsight, it might have been one of the greatest things that happened to me.
To go and get the experience and not do as well as I wanted made me change my perspective on where I was in the sport, the things I could accomplish, the things I needed to do to become a great athlete.
And these days, I’m working every day to be great. There’s so much involved in mastering the shot put that people don’t see: the gym work, speed work, plyometric training – and yes, eating.
A lot of people think our job is to get as big as possible, but that’s not true for everyone. Some throwers are trying to maintain mass, others are already heavy and feel they need to lose weight. I had a lot of success at a heavier weight but I wanted to maximise my potential.
It was tough to lose weight – I do love eating – but in our event you just can’t afford to not maximise your ability.
Other guys have the opposite problem. I see Ryan Crouser on a daily basis and it’s funny to watch him at meals; he struggles to eat enough just to maintain weight.
But just being around guys like him shows me what is required to be at the very top. No matter the day, I know I've got to be on my game in every facet.
To get up every day, do all my work, and know that every time I see that vision board, I'm one step closer to making it all come true.