Mark Halliday/Moonrider Productions photo                                 Tyrell Mara is aiming to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in discus, continuing an athletic career that has included NCAA basketball and CrossFit.

Mark Halliday/Moonrider Productions photo Tyrell Mara is aiming to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in discus, continuing an athletic career that has included NCAA basketball and CrossFit.

Former White Rock hoops star aims for 2020 Olympics – in discus

Tyrell Mara wants to represent Canada at the next Summer Olympics

More than a dozen years ago, a teenaged Tyrell Mara – who was getting set to embark on a college basketball career south of the border – made a pact with his Richmond Kajaks discus coach, Richard Collier.

When Mara – who was a two-sport star at White Rock Christian Academy – was eventually done with hoops, he would make a return to track and field.

“It was a pretty meaningful conversation,” recalled Mara, now 30, of the talk he and Collier had prior to his leaving for a six-year stint playing college basketball, first with Portland State University in the NCAA and then at Trinity Western University in Langley.

“He said, ‘Tyrell, go play basketball – chase your dream. But when you want to be really spectacular (at discus), come back and talk to me, and let’s go to the Olympics.’

“He basically planted that seed in my head when I was 17 years old.”

Fast forward to 2015. With Mara’s basketball career wrapped up, and enthusiasm for his newest athletic goal – leading a team to qualify for the World CrossFit Games – also beginning to wane, he decided the time was right for another turn with track and field.

During his basketball career and three years with CrossFit, Mara had “checked in” a few times each year with Collier, letting him now when he might be ready to come back.

“We’d go back and forth, and that seed slowly, slowly grew, then finally I was ready… and they were still on board,” Mara said.

“It had always been in the back of my mind. The first time I ever appeared in the Peace Arch News, it wasn’t about basketball. It was with Richard and it was about discus. I was in Grade 6 or 7 and there’s a picture of me with a discus in my hand.”

Though he may have started Mara on his journey, the elder Collier wouldn’t be the one to see the end result. He passed away in December 2015. Garrett Collier, Richard’s son, now serves as Mara’s coach, and the pair have formed a special bond as well.

“To be doing this now with Garrett is special. We’re 100 per cent on the same page, and sometimes I’m blown away at practices because he understands me so well, and understands how my mind works,” Mara said.

No matter his endeavour – be it athletic, professional or family-related – Mara is not the type of person to do something halfway. It’s why, with the encouragement of his wife Natasha and their two young children, he has fully immersed himself in the discus, with the end goal being a spot on Canada’s track-and-field team for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

In every conversation about his Olympic dreams, Mara is quick to point out that it’s Natasha who is the key part of his journey, and is someone who had made numerous sacrifices to enable him to take aim at his big goal.

“Without her, none of this is possible,” he said.

“One thing I’ve learned is that to be truly world-class at something, you have to dedicate, typically, a respectable amount of time at it – years and eventually decades. But also, you really have to sacrifice everything else for that singular focus.”

Despite CrossFit helping prepare him for discus – Mara has added significant size and power to his six-foot-six frame since his days on the hardcourt – the transition was not exactly a smooth one right away. Even now, despite podium finishes and both nationals and provincial championships this summer, he admits that he has plenty of room to grow.

“I came back thinking I’d maybe just have to dust off the rush… but I literally had to start again from zero,” he explained.

“It was hugely humbling. I quickly realized it was going to be much more difficult than my ego originally thought it would be.”

Early struggles aside, Mara was undeterred, and managed to juggle early-morning and evening practice sessions around a full-time job and a family. He’s also spent time speaking to groups about his journey in an attempt to inspire others to chase what Mara calls “big, crazy dreams.”

“In the winter, we’d use a blowtorch to melt the ice off the throwing ring. Training in the dark, in the rain – the progress is happening, so there’s no room to stop.”

And when not at the track with his coach, he was often in the backyard of his Langley home, miming his throwing routine – over and over – in order to perfect his technique.

“You can’t jump onto the world stage and expect to be good. And if you could, it wouldn’t be worth it anyway,” he said. “So the point isn’t that you can’t do it, it’s that it’s just going to be really hard. Framing the Olympics this way has helped me appreciate the fact that it is the obstacles and struggles… that make it worth it.”

At Canadian Track and Field Championships in Ottawa in July, Mara – just a few weeks after making a technical change in his throwing motion – threw a new personal-best distance of 53.1 m – a 10-m improvement over his best distance a year-and-a-half ago. While he didn’t repeat that feat at B.C. championships later in the month, he still feels he is on pace to improve enough over the next few years to meet the 2020 qualifying standard. (For the 2016 Games in Rio, the Canadian qualifying standard for men’s discus was 66 m.)

Regardless of the end result, Mara said he is grateful and excited to have the opportunity to chase another athletic goal – especially one that has been percolating in the back of his mind since Collier first told him the Olympics were possible.

“It’s crazy, the legacy that he’s left. I’m on this cool journey that he inspired over the last 20 years. He will have inspired me to the get to the Olympics, and his son is the one who will have propelled me to get there,” he said.

“We’re doing this together.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Douglas Park Community Elementary administrative assistant Kim Langford has been instrumental in the school’s food programs and event takes extra food out into the community, feeding local street people. To prevent waste, she also forged links with local farms which take excess food not suitable for people for their farm animals. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Langley City administrative assistant finds food builds bonds with students and families

Kim Langford used to work in banking and accounting. She finds a better rate of return in education

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judge ponders case of alleged conflict over Langley Township council donations

The mayor and two sitting councillors could be removed from office

Brookswood Starbucks manager Sonja Olsen posed for a photo on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 at the store located at 40th Avenue and 200 Street with some of the many cards for seniors her customers have filled out (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Christmas cards for seniors idea by Brookswood Starbucks takes off

Idea is to make the holidays a little less lonely for older people in care homes during pandemic

Readers enjoy the letters to Santa from local children. Here’s one from a previous Christmas. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley’s community newspaper wants local kids letters to Santa

Children’s letters to the St. Nick could be featured in our annual special Christmas section

Bad weather this year could catch Langley’s homeless without enough shelter space due to COVID-19 concerns. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley needs new site for Emergency Weather Response shelter

COVID distancing concerns have maxed out existing shelter spaces

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

Most Read