LATE last year, British Athletics told Chris Bennett they weren’t going to fund him for the 2016 season. There is no clearer message from a governing body that they do not believe you can make it to the Olympic Games than not being given an ounce of support. For Bennett though, the snub proved to be the perfect motivation. Skip forward eight months and the 26-year-old is preparing to head off to Brazil to make his Olympic debut.

Bennett is one of three British hammer throwers who have been included in Team GB and the Shettleston Harrier’s joy is even more intense having resigned himself to the fact he would not be selected.

The qualifying mark for the hammer was set at 77 metres, a distance which was considered unreasonably tough. Despite setting a personal best during the season, Bennett fell an agonising 55cm short and so it seemed the Scot was doomed to being one of those hard luck stories about athletes who miss qualification by a whisker.

Until, that is, a phone call came from British Athletics’ head of field events, Peter Stanley, last week.

“When my phone rang, I got this sinking feeling that he was calling to let me know I hadn’t been selected,” Bennett says. “But then he started telling me that he was just waiting for the invite from the IAAF for me to compete at Rio and when that arrived, British Athletics would be accepting it.

"I couldn’t believe it. My exact words were: 'You’re f***ing joking!' I had to keep it under wraps until the next day when he phoned back to tell me it was all official, I was going to Rio. The fact it all happened so quickly means it’s taking a while to sink in.”

Bennett has made remarkable improvements in the past two years. At Glasgow 2014, he finished last in the final but it was this disappointment that took him to the next level.

“The Commonwealth Games was both the best experience of my life and the worst,” Bennett says. “I left the stadium crying and vowed I was never going to let that happen to me again, I never wanted to feel that bad ever again. I learned a lot from that experience and I decided to get my finger out. I’ve improved both mentally and physically since then; I dropped about 20kgs last winter so I’ve become more mobile which has helped my performance a lot.”

It was the news last November from British Athletics that he was not going to be funded that gave him the real push though. Support from Sportscotland and Shettleston Harriers helped the financial side of things but it was Bennett’s change in attitude that proved to be the greatest driver.

“When someone tells me they don’t think I can do something, I’m like, I’m going to prove you wrong,” he says. “For British Athletics to say they thought Rio was beyond me, that gave me the incentive. That’s the way I work. I hate the word can’t. I hate when someone says you can’t do something. Yes, you can, if you put your mind to it, you can.”

Bennett’s path to Rio has not been easy. The hammer is one of the strongest events in the UK in terms of strength-in-depth and the fact Bennett will be accompanied by fellow Scot, Mark Dry, as well as Englishman, Nick Miller, in Rio illustrates how competitive the event is. It is the first time since 1988 that three hammer throwers have made a British Olympic team and the competition is, for Bennett, the newly-crowned British champion, a huge positive.

“When one of us does well, it really pushes the other two to improve,” he says. “We all know that it’s great for the event to have three guys throwing so well and we all know that to be the best in Britain, we have to really be on our game. This season, we knew head-to-head records could count for selection so it meant we all had to bring our A-game to every event.”

With the Russian doping controversy dominating headlines, it is likely to be the hot topic of conversation in Rio. The hammer is heavily affected with nine Russians have thrown over 73 metres yet none will be in Rio. Bennett does not take as hard a line about the blanket ban for Russia as some of his peers though.

“There are some clean athletes in Russia and they’re having to suffer because of the actions of others which is just not fair,” he says. “But the recent stories have really tarnished the reputation of the sport and the reputation of the clean athletes. There are a lot more clean athletes out there than dirty ones and I think that a lot of the time, that gets forgotten.

"UK Anti-Doping are doing a great job with testing but it’s in other countries where the problem lies. And if testing at major championships was more stringent, that could help too. At the Europeans [in the Netherlands] recently, not every medallist was tested. There’s guys who are coming back from drugs bans who are winning medals at major championships yet they’re not always getting tested, why not?”

For Bennett though, nothing will diminish the joy he feels about being selected for Rio.

“To make it into the team is a dream come true. No one can ever take away the fact I’m an Olympian,” he says. “Thousands and thousands of people do athletics in Britain and there’s only 80 of us going to Rio. I think it will take a bit of time for me to appreciate that.

"But it’s not about me going there just to make up the numbers. I want to show people I deserve to be there. I want to make the final. I believe I can do that.”