CHRIS BENNETT envisaged himself spending this summer competing at his second Olympic Games. Instead, he was spending 40-plus hours a week as a supermarket delivery driver.

But Scotland’s top hammer thrower is nothing short of jubilant about the fact he is not only in the shape of his life physically but also mentally, is in the best place he has been in for years.

At the start of 2020, Bennett had his sights firmly set on securing a spot in Team GB for Tokyo 2020 but illness in February derailed his plans. And so, as news filtered through that the Tokyo Games were to be postponed by a year as a result of the pandemic, Bennett was afforded space to breathe.

“When we went into lockdown, I was sitting at 24 stone with my fighting weight being about 19 stone,” the 30-year-old said.

“I was lifting well in the gym so I hadn’t thought about my weight then one day, I jumped on the scales and it said I was 154kgs and I was like ‘no way, these scales must be wrong!’. But they weren’t, and that’s when I thought right, I need to sort myself out here.

“I sat down with my coach and talked about what I needed to do; it was hard during lockdown because I was working – I needed the money because my normal job of doing school visits stopped and I was still owed a lot of money – but I was really motivated.

“Between June and the start of October, I lost 22 kilos and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for four or five years.”

That Bennett feels such an enthusiasm for his sport is quite a departure from how he felt just a couple of years ago. It was in 2018, in the aftermath of his second Commonwealth Games, he hit rock bottom.

After heading to Australia with ambitions of winning a medal, he finished in 10th. He remembers sitting at the airport, alone, waiting for his flight home with some very dark thoughts running through his head.

“I’ve been very close to chucking it and 2018 in particular was very, very bad for me,” he recalled.

“I remember after the Commonwealth Games having really stupid thoughts in my head – things like did I even want to be around anymore?”

He was, admits Bennett with hindsight, depressed. At the time, he would never have spoken out about his feelings whereas now, the Glaswegian is far more comfortable talking about his struggles.

It was his fifth-place finish at the British Championships in 2019 that made him realise he needed to change his mindset. He was, he admits, perfectly content with his fifth place and that, he knew, was a problem.

“Now I look back and think what the hell was I playing at being happy with finishing fifth? You have to have that burning desire or else what’s the point?” he said.

“I needed to get that respect back for myself – I was better than I was showing.”

It was the realisation that he was stuck in a rut Bennett needed and the change in attitude from then to now is stark.

In September, Bennett finished second at the British Championships and although it was a last-minute decision to compete and he went in with no competition practice, he was sorely disappointed with a silver medal.

“I’ve got that drive back – I don’t have to drag myself out of bed to go to training anymore,” he said.

“The past few years I’ve always had pretty long breaks after the end of the season but after the British Champs, I was desperate to get back into it.

“I still struggle with my mental health but now I have the coping mechanisms to deal with it.

“I’ve had the kick up the backside I needed. For a good few years, people have been asking me why I’m still doing this and now I’m like I’m doing it because I’m bloody good at it.

“I’d let things slip. That’s my own fault and I can’t get those years back but now, I’ve stopped looking back and I’m only looking to the future.”

The future for Bennett is focused on securing a seat on the plane to Tokyo next summer. And he admits that if he gets there, he will feel very differently to the emotions he felt on his Olympic debut, in Rio four years ago.

“If I get to Tokyo, it’ll feel like I deserve it,” he said.

“In Rio, I didn’t feel like I deserved it.

“I’m busting myself to get in the team and so whatever happens, I’ll know I couldn’t have done any more. And that’s what it’s all about.”