AFTER her third and fifth places at the IAAF World Championships earlier this month, Eilidh Child was in demand. Places in lucrative races were hers for the taking – but she turned them down.
The Scot, a bronze medallist in the 4x400 metres relay and fifth in the 400m hurdles in Moscow, was tempted by those offers to run at Diamond League meetings. But, having already turned her mind to next year’s Commonwealth Games, she deemed it best to take a break now, then get down to the rigours of winter training.
“I really do need a break,” Child explained. “Moscow was five races in six days and that can be mentally draining, so I just thought it was time to come home and switch off.
“It makes more sense to finish on a high, have a nice break and then come back to training earlier than you otherwise would have. My hamstrings were screaming at me in that last race and you’ve got to listen to your body and be sensible. The last thing you want to do is get an injury at the end of the season and then come back to training later than you should.
“The bigger picture is Glasgow. At the end of a championship you need to learn to switch off – as an athlete you are so protective of your body for three weeks beforehand, and, if you’re not careful afterwards, you can pick things up.
“The main thing I took from Moscow was just the feeling of being able to mix it with the best in the world. The encouraging thing was that I was first in the Commonwealth in the World Championships, and I can go to Glasgow knowing I am good enough if not better than any of the other girls there.”
Having set personal bests in both the hurdles and the flat 400 earlier this season, Child was initially a little disappointed not to have set another one in the hurdles final in Moscow. But, on reflection, she realised that if everyone had surpassed their previous times, she would have ended up in the same position, and so was satisfied with what she had achieved. “Initially, I came off the track after the hurdles and, when I was speaking about the race, I looked up and saw the time and thought: ‘If I’d run a PB I would have won a medal.’ But championship finals are different to the average race, and if everyone had run a PB in that final I would have come fifth.
“That’s the way I have to look at it. I did the best that I could on that day and I came fifth in the world, which is something to be proud of. People are quite hard on themselves in athletics, but I’ve had time to think about it and actually I’m very happy with how it went.”
The 26-year-old was a silver medallist at the last Games in Delhi, but knows that going one better next year in Glasgow is far from assured. She may have been the first Commonwealth competitor home in Moscow, but it was the first time she had beaten Perri Shakes-Drayton after a long sequence of second places behind the Englishwoman.
What is more, Shakes-Drayton was injured after clattering into a couple of hurdles. It is a frequent occurrence in the event, of course, and in no way diminishes Child’s achievement, but she is not simply going to presume that, having finished ahead of her Great Britain team-mate once, she is sure to do so every time from now on. Indeed, she expects a lot of opposition, both domestically and from further afield, by the time next July comes around.
“I know that Perri will be a major rival for me in Glasgow, but England also have Meghan Beesley and then there are the Jamaicans. They are very strong in my event and there are always others who come out of the blue as well.
“I walked Perri through the mixed zone after the final to make sure she got to a doctor, because she had hurt her knee when she hit one of the hurdles. You never want a race to finish that way for anyone.
“She left that evening or the next morning, so I didn’t get to talk to her again, but she sent some very nice messages about the relay because she would have been part of the team. She texted us to wish us luck beforehand and then to say congratulations afterwards. I was just sad to see her championship end that way.”
Shakes-Drayton had been second fastest in the UK over the flat 400, but, even without her, the British quartet of Child, Shana Cox, Margaret Adeoye and Christine Ohuruogu were still able to claim bronze in the 4x400 behind Russia and the USA.
“It was like the icing on the cake at the end of the season, because this season has gone really well for me,” Child said of that medal.
“I was delighted with how my hurdles went – fifth in the world is a great achievement and if you’d offered me that before this season I don’t think I would have believed it could happen.
“But it was nice to bring a medal home, too, because it gives me something to show for all the effort and the work I put in.”
• Eilidh Child is a Commonwealth games ambassador for SSE Energy Supply Ltd. See www.sse.co.uk.