Five London 2012 Olympians, 15 teenagers, four Para athletes and two brothers form part of the Scottishathletics Commonwealth squad as the countdown to Glasgow 2014 gathers pace.
The governing body for the sport in Scotland has revealed the names of 51 athletes they have deemed worthy of support over the next 12 months.
With the scramble to set selection qualifying standards for Glasgow 2014 to start on 1 April (1 January for marathon), the squad has increased in size by no fewer than ten athletes from a list made public by Scottishathletics in December 2011.
All five of Scotland’s London 2012 track and field competitors – Eilidh Child, Eilish McColgan, Lee McConnell, Freya Murray and Lynsey Sharp – are included, as well as Paralympians Libby Clegg and Stef Reid.
Two promising young wheelchair athletes, Meggan Dawson-Farrell and Samantha Kinghorn, make the list. Kinghorn, a 16-year-old Borders schoolgirl, is the youngest of those 15 teenagers, with Scottishathletics looking ahead to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.
And the brothers? Kilbarchan AAC pair Derek, 23, and Callum Hawkins, 20, feature in the group, with the elder having run 2.14.04 on his marathon debut in Frankfurt, in October – five minutes inside the required 2.19 standard for Glasgow 2014.
The athletes in the squad receive support from Scottishathletics throughout the year and the majority will receive medical back-up from the Sportscotland Institute of Sport. The support isn’t financial, as such, but helps with competition opportunities and, this year, there is an emphasis on bringing coaches into the information and education loop and even extends to handing athletes advice and guidelines on social media. There were 41 athletes named this time last year and Scottishathletics director of coaching, Stephen Maguire, was at pains to stress those excluded now are by no means being ruled out of the running for Glasgow 2014. Far from it.
“Just because an athlete isn’t named doesn’t mean the door is closed on them – by Scottishathletics or indeed for Glasgow 2014,” said Maguire, who arrived in Scotland in September after coaching Irish hero Jason Smyth to double gold at the Paralympics to match his Beijing achievements.
“The selection standards for the Commonwealth Games are available online and each and every athlete and coach is invited to study them and strive for them.
Scottishathletics believe the increase in the size of the squad being supported reflects improved performances and a desire also to look towards Gold Coast 2018 – the Commonwealth Games after Glasgow 2014 – as well as the short-term future.
“With Glasgow 2014 looming ever closer, we naturally have a short-term focus over the next 18 months or so – but we are also looking beyond that in terms of development,’ added Maguire.
“The squad programme is very much geared towards the needs of each athlete on an individual basis and the coach’s responsibility to manage that.
“We are working closely with the Sportscotland Institute of Sport to ensure our ‘medal-zone’ athletes, in tandem with support from UK Athletics, will have the best possible backing in order to compete at the very top level.’
The oldest member of the squad is 34-year-old Lee McConnell, who pledged last week she has no plans to retire before Glasgow 2014.
McConnell said: “I want to continue until I turn up to the track one day and suddenly discover the desire to be there has evaporated. Craig [Bonthron], my husband, has always been very supportive of me. If he has his way then I will definitely be competing at Glasgow 2014. He’d love to see me run at Hampden.
“I went to a couple of countries as part of the bidding process as a member of the Glasgow 2014 team and I am involved in a ‘Legacy’ committee through Glasgow City Council so I’d love to see it through.”
The youngest athlete named is Kinghorn at 16 and, as well as those 15 teenagers, there are a further nine 20-year-olds to give almost half the squad a young profile.