Athletics: Eilish McColgan defends her crown

Eilish McColgan crosses the line to take the British title in the 3,000m steeplechase and book her ticket to Moscow. Picture: Getty
Eilish McColgan crosses the line to take the British title in the 3,000m steeplechase and book her ticket to Moscow. Picture: Getty
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LAST year, Eilish McColgan’s coach and mother Liz was close to ordering her to pull out of the Olympic trials here because of a chest infection. She ran, she won the 3,000-metres steeplechase, and she went on to compete at London 2012.

Yesterday, at the Sainsbury’s British Championships, McColgan revealed that her doctors had advised her to end her season weeks ago because of a stressed shin. She defied that advice, she successfully defended her title, and she will now compete for Great Britain at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow next month.

The Dundonian’s win was one of a total of 14 medals – six of them gold – won by Scottish competitors over the three days of this event. With exacting qualifying standards, many of those medallists will not be in the British team to be named tomorrow, but McColgan, who has an A-standard time, is one, while Steph Twell, who won the 5,000m yesterday and has a B standard, is another.

McColgan led a Scottish 1-2-3 in the steeplechase, Emily Stewart and Lennie Waite taking silver and bronze, and was particularly relieved to have proven her fitness because she missed out on the 2011 world championships through injury. “I’m really, really pleased,” she said. “I think that’s the most nervous I’ve ever been going into a race.

“My last race was Rome Diamond League and I was carrying what I thought was a niggle. I had some scans and results, and it wasn’t good news for me: I was told to end my season, and that would be it.

“But two years ago I missed the world championships with a broken foot, and I just felt like the world champs weren’t going to happen for me. I’ve been to the Olympics, but other major championships are what I’ve always wanted to go to.

“I just thought, ‘This cannot happen again’. To really cement my place in the team the aim was to finish first today, and I’m so relieved I managed to do that.”

McColgan’s time on another day of blistering heat in Birmingham was a modest 9min 56.02sec, nearly 20 seconds outside her personal best. But the time was irrelevant: the key was winning, and proving to herself that she is capable of going to Moscow and reaching the final.

“I had a stress response on my shin, and there was something wrong with my calf as well – but the two are related,” she explained. “It was actually the way I water-jump. I don’t do enough anyway, because of my previous injury.

“Things are improving every single week. That [the injury diagnosis] was four weeks ago. I’m hoping another four weeks to the worlds I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”

“Today I’ve totally changed my technique. I don’t land on the barrier any more – I hurdle it. And I feel that’s really going to help me. There’s less impact going through that one area all the time, and that’s something I’ll definitely try at the worlds, just hurdling.

“At the start of the year my aim was to make that team, but now, looking at statistics, 9:37 always manages to make the final. I’m well capable of running that time: my PB is 9:38, but the way I was running throughout the winter I should be nearer 9:30 this year.

“So to make the final is a definite aim now. And also going towards 2014 if I can keep making improvement I’d be hoping to be in that top-five region in the Commonwealths.”

Twell won bronze at the last Commonwealth Games in 2010, but is only now coming back to her best form after lengthy injury problems which forced her to miss the Olympics. Her B-standard time earlier this season was just 0.6sec short of the A standard, so given that, and her pedigree, she should be included when the British Athletics selectors finalise the team this evening.

After a very slow start to the 12-and-a-half-lap race, Twell gradually picked up the pace, winning comfortably ahead of her fellow-Scot Laura Whittle.

“The conditions were tough and I knew it was going to be a lonely race,” Twell said. “Whether I get to the worlds or not, I’m just happy to be taking strides forward again.

“I’m hopeful [of selection], but you can never get confident. I’m just going to plug away at training and we’ll see what happens.

“I’m getting closer and closer to being the athlete I was. My training times are tumbling down. I’m super happy with where I am at the moment.”

Eilidh Child was less happy with her second place in the 400m hurdles behind Perri Shakes-Drayton, who has now beaten her GB team-mate 14 times in a row. The Londoner got off to a flying start and was never threatened.

“It was just messy,” Child admitted. “I lost momentum going round the bend and that’s an area we’ve been working on since last year, because I’m a little bit quicker now.”

Shakes-Drayton won in 54.36sec, outside Child’s PB of 54.22, but the Scot’s disappointment was relative, as she accepted that her own time of 54.90 was one she would have been very happy with not too long ago.

As for the duel between the two Britons, Child said she did not have a mental block about racing Shakes- Drayton, but accepted a burden would be lifted from her if and when she did end that losing streak.

“I think if I was to beat her, I’d beat her more often. It’s almost like a barrier with the times. Once you beat 55 seconds, 54 seconds becomes a lot easier.

“If I beat her once, I like to think I’ll be able to keep doing it. I’d like to say it’s not psychological. I’m really trying to focus on my own race.”

Susan McKelvie, whose partner, Andy Frost, won the men’s hammer on Saturday, came third in the same event yesterday. And there was another bronze in the field for Allan Smith in the high jump. Jamie Bowie was fourth in the 400m final, setting a personal best of 46.11sec to put himself into contention for a place in the relay squad for Moscow.

On Saturday, in addition to Frost’s victory, Chris O’Hare and Emma Nuttall won the 1,500m and high jump respectively, while Andrew Lemoncello took the 10,000m title on Friday.

SCOTS MEDALLISTS

GOLD

Andrew Lemoncello 10,000m

Andy Frost hammer

Emma Nuttall high jump

Chris O’Hare 1,500m

Steph Twell 5,000m

Eilish McColgan 3,000m steeplechase

SILVER

Kirsty Law discus

Emily Stewart 3,000m steeplechase

Laura Whittle 5,000m

Eilidh Child 400m hurdles

BRONZE

Kirsty Yates shot putt

Lennie Waite 3,000m steeplechase

Susan McKelvie hammer

Allan Smith high jump