Paris Olympics: Kiwi discus recordholder Connor Bell finds identity, success in throwing circle

By his own admission, Connor Bell picked up a discus to help find an identity and a sense of acceptance.

Ten years later, the Waitoki native is heading to the Olympics, named in the 15-strong NZ athletics squad, and has an old schoolmate of his mum's to thank for his progression.

Bell best describes himself as "a country bumpkin", who's spun his way onto the world discus scene.

Connor Bell in action at the world championships.
Connor Bell in action at the world championships. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I've got weak wrists, so shot put's not for me," he insisted.

Named for his first Olympics, Bell, 22, fell in love with the sport at intermediate school. As he explains it, he gets to throw 2kg dinner plates.

"I didn't really have the social skills to fit in and when I picked up discus, I was good at it," he said. "That was something I attached to my identity and I was really motivated by being good." 

That's certainly what he's become. Last week, Bell bettered his own national record with a 68.10m heave in Oklahoma.

At the same event, the longest-standing men's athletics world record, set in 1986, was also broken, with Lithuanian Mykolos Alekna's 74.35m more than six metres ahead of Bell. 

The Kiwi has other ways of measuring success.

"It's less about national records and more about just being better... being better every day," he insisted. 

If anyone knows what it's like to coach a young thrower to be better, it's Kirsten Hellier - Dame Valerie Adams' long-time mentor - who is now keeping her eye on Bell.

"It's been a really positive space for me, and my growth and development," he said. "She went to high school with my mum.

How often does he remind her of that?

"Not often enough, I don't think," he chuckles.

The Olympic circle awaits for this country bumpkin.