Our inspiring community: Harry

In these extraordinary times, we’re celebrating the resilience, resourcefulness and compassion of our community.

  • Date

    Tue 11 Aug 20

At the beginning of the year, Essex student and Team GB member Harry Hughes was dreaming of the Olympics. So how did he deal with lockdown?

“I'm probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in, really. The distances I’m throwing in training are close to the Olympic qualifier, and that's off a half run-up. So I’m really excited.”

COVID-19 presented a number of challenges for Team GB member - and UK javelin number one - Harry Hughes. How to: complete his degree in Sports and Exercise Science; put his start-up business on a firm footing; and fulfil his ambition of competing at the Olympics.

How has COVID-19 been for you?

“Back in March, we were preparing for the Olympics in July and the European Championships in August. When COVID hit, all of those plans were kind of blown out the water.

“When I was really young, I had quite severe asthma. I still get exercise-induced asthma now, so I was quite concerned that if I did get the virus it would probably hit my chest pretty hard.

“Fortunately, I had a big field near my home to throw on.

“I mean, I’m literally throwing off a strip of rubber that we nailed into some grass. It’s slightly downhill, so not optimal at all, but I seem to be throwing really well off it.

“With the Olympics being cancelled, it's frustrating, but I'm only 22. It gives me another year to grow, another year to get stronger, to get fitter, to throw better and it’s actually given me more time to focus on the things I needed to with my throwing.

In addition to training and completing his degree, Harry has also been working hard to establish Dangler, an online marketplace for anglers that he set up with his brothers.

The website launched on 24 July, and that was Harry’s second reason to celebrate in the space of a few weeks – he also gained a first in Sports and Exercise Science, an achievement that, he concedes, makes him “very, very happy.”

How will you remember your time at Essex?

“I really, really enjoyed my time at Essex. The University has a really nice feel to it, really welcoming. It’s not too big that you feel lost in it. It's kind of the perfect size.

“My time at University really allowed me to have the freedom to do other things as well. I started my business while at university. And I still managed to get all my hobbies in. So, it was perfect really.

“University opened up a lot of opportunities as well. In my second year, we had to do some work experience, so I went and worked with Northampton Saints and did some strength and conditioning work with those guys.

“Doing my dissertation, such a big project, was also a great opportunity. I looked at ‘anti-doping behaviours in sub-national level athletes’. I had to try and recruit 200 sub-national level athletes to do an hour-long study, so I ended up going round to all the Premiership football clubs and trying to get in with their academy players and things like that. I met some amazing people.

“So yes, I certainly look back at my time at Essex with some very fond memories.”

What’s next for you?

“There’s the British championships in September, behind closed doors, so I need to go there and see what I can do.

“And then the challenge is to basically just keep myself ready for whatever competitions do come along next year. Tokyo would be the big goal, but there's the World Championships as well next year in Oregon. So if the Olympics isn't there, then hopefully the world champs will be.”