Decathlete Ben Gregory, looking forward to competing in the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this July.
We talk to decathlete Ben Gregory, who is looking forward to competing in the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this July. From a young age, Ben Gregory knew he wanted to make it as a top sportsman – and as a teenager he decided it would be in one of the toughest events, decathlon. His ambitions were driven by the performances of Dean Macey, who won triumphed in decathlon in the Commonwealth Games and two World Champs, and stories of 1980s Olympics gold medallist Daley Thompson. Ben also reports that combined events suited him. The 23-year-old athlete, who hails from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, says: “At school I could never concentrate on just one sport for long periods and to start with I enjoyed all kinds of sports including cricket, football, rugby, athletics and badminton. “Then I got into pole vaulting and I was good at this. I became number one in the UK at pole vault as a teenager. When pole vault was introduced into combined events at U17 level I knew that decathlon was for me. It suits me to focus on a range of sports.” On paper, Ben is still the UK’s best decathlon pole vaulter with a personal best of 5.20m (972points), although he states that the standard of British Decathlon and pole vault are both on the rise. He says: “There are many other decathletes jumping 5m now so competition is far greater than ever before.” Ben reckons his breakthrough competition came when he was selected for his first Junior International in Paris for the Indoor Heptathlon (this is a seven discipline event as compared to the 10 disciplines of decathlon). Ben says: “This selection confirmed my belief that I was always made for the multi events.” Since then, the athlete, who will compete for Wales at Glasgow 2014, has scored many successes. As well as the pole vault record, Ben has run the 110m Hurdles in 14.48 (913 points) and holds a Long Jump of 7.40m (910 points). In 2010, he was the youngest competitor in the decathlon event at the Delhi Commonwealth Games. He says: “The Games 2010 is definitely up there as one of my best events. I went out there as the youngest competitor and managed several personal bests, including my 5.20m pole vault.” Ben scored a sixth place in that Commonwealth Games. He also took a Team Bronze in the European Cup Combined Events in Hengelo in the same year. But his athletics career has not always run smoothly. Just before the London Olympics 2012 he injured his shoulder during a training session. He says: “I was gutted. I was at that time number one in the UK indoors decathlon and had broken the Welsh National record for the indoor heptathlon. I was in the best shape of my life and then I hit a hurdle in training and dislocated my left shoulder. “I couldn’t believe I would not get the chance to see if I could have made it at an Olympics.” Rather than give up, Ben says the Olympics upset made him even more determined to carry on with his sport. He says: “I was lucky enough to get a lot of tickets to the Olympics 2012 and while I was there I knew that this was the stage that I wanted to compete on.” Fortunately, this year everything has come together again for Ben. He says: “I had to deal with knee surgery in 2013 but I have been very proud of my indoor performance this year. [Ben set a Welsh Record for Indoor Heptathlon.] “Our senior men’s GB Team also broke a long-standing British and meeting record in Sheffield earlier in 2014. “After the knee surgery I had no idea what shape I would be in this year but thankfully the hard work and dedication through my rehabilitation has allowed me to return in the best form of my life.” He recorded a new personal best of 7517 points at the Mt SAC relays in California, America, to become the 12th Welsh athlete to have so far attained the ‘A’ standard for Glasgow 2014. He says: “It feels amazing to have earned my place on the Welsh team. When I crossed the line in the 1500m in Azusa it hit home that I had done it. “All the pain and sacrifice I had been through was worth it I was going to another Commonwealth Games. I was very emotional and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family who supported me throughout not knowing if I would ever return to the form I showed in 2010.” Ben will compete in the decathlon events in Glasgow on July 28 and 28 and he is waiting to hear if he has achieved the qualifying mark to also take part in the pole vault competition. He says: “My personal best is over the standard so I will have to wait and see.” The athlete adds: “It really does feels as though we are building towards a home Games and it’s nice that my friends and family will actually be able to come and support me in Glasgow.” Today Ben makes use of Loughborough University’s training facilities. He says: “I stuck around after graduating because the facilities are amazing.” He is also a member of Vale of Aylesbury and Loughborough Students clubs and is coached by Julie Hollman, who formerly competed at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World champs levels. And Ben credits RockTape as being part of his recovery and continued high performance programme. He says: “RockTape gives me the support for niggles and injury recovery and it lets me train with confidence. Training for 10 events leaves the body feeling pretty battered so when I need some extra support in a specific area RockTape is perfect. “It’s easy to apply and I usually do it myself or have my girlfriend do it if I can’t reach. “I love how RockTape have taken sports tape to new levels with the designs and the quality of the product is far better than any other kinesiology tape on the market. I would know because I’ve used them all!” Aside from decathlon, Ben has a flourishing career as a model and sees the work as an enabler for his full-time sports. He says: “I’ve been involved with modelling since I was 18. My first job was an Adidas advert with Jonny Wilkinson, Jessica Ennis and Andy Murray. It paid well for the amount of work we had to do and soon after that I secured other modelling jobs, even appearing in a VISA advert with Usain Bolt.”