FOR some athletes, the Commonwealth Games marks the end of their season. For Eilish McColgan it feels more like the start.
The 23-year-old from Dundee is fit again now, but missed out on vital weeks of training earlier in the season because of injury. Without that enforced break, she believes that, at the very least, she could have got closer to her personal best in last night’s 3,000-metres steeplechase.
McColgan, whose mother Liz was 10,000m gold in the Edinburgh Games of 1986, was supported by a host of family and friends, including her grandmother Betty Lynch, whose last visit to a stadium was to see Liz’s victory. Sixth in a season’s best of 9min 44.65sec, McColgan was nearly ten seconds slower than her best time to date, and never looked like staying close to Kenya’s medal-winning trio, winner Purity Kirui, runner-up Milcah Chemos Cheywa and bronze medallist Joan Kipkemoi. But she has done enough in recent weeks to believe she has more to achieve in the event before a probable graduation to the 5,000 and 10,000m.
“It was an amazing experience,” McColgan said after she and team-mate Lennie Waite – tenth in 9:51.53 - were given a rapturous reception by the home crowd. “I’m obviously not going to have anything like that again in my life. Just the cheer for me and Lennie at the start was something special. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to experience it.
“At the start of the season, I didn’t think I was going to be racing at all. It was one thing after another, bad luck after bad luck. So just experiencing the whole Games is great. I just ran out of time, fitness wise.
“That’s still the fastest I’ve run all year, slightly faster than the Diamond League event here. It’s improving, but I’ve run out of time.
“I think I was ranked seventh or eighth in the field, so I’ve improved on that. I was going to find it very difficult to beat Kenyan girls who have run 9.20 this year. They’re in a different class.
“Personally I would have liked to be closer to the Australians. For me, to place higher than my ranking is all my mum wanted me to do. If I can run 9.44 with the preparations I’ve had, I definitely feel like next year will be a big change. Barbara Parker’s British record of 9.24 is my main aim and I think I can achieve that.
“I’m going to do a lot of work over the winter on the barriers. That will make a difference. This year it was a series of unfortunate events. Next year has to be better. I definitely feel I can get close to that record.
“I’m going to continue racing because I feel like my season is almost starting. The Diamond League event here was like my first race of the season, I feel like this is my second, coming back into form slowly. This is only the beginning.
“I’m possibly going to race in Brazil on August 10. I’ll do a couple of more flat races after that, keep going until September.
“Brazil is with one eye on the Olympics, a great chance to experience what it’s like out there, the different weather and all that. A lot of athletes finish after the Europeans, but I want to make the most of my season, get some confidence for next season.”
McColgan looked hesitant at the water jump, a trait she has shown this season as a result of being prevented by injury from doing all the hurdling training she would like. Partly because of that loss of momentum, she was unable to respond when the Kenyans upped the pace at the mid-point of the seven-and-a half-lap race.
But she rightly refused to be despondent, and apart from her own performance was particularly pleased by her grandmother’s presence. “My mum, my dad, uncle, cousin, my three little brothers, my sister – and my gran, my mum’s mum, were all there.
“My gran watched my mum at Meadowbank in ’86 and she came here tonight – I don’t think she’s been in a stadium since ‘86. The fact that she was here tonight is special. I don’t know how she could even see, because she doesn’t see very well – but I’m sure she heard it all.
“It was really special for her. My grandad always said to her that if she ever got the chance, she should go and watch me run. Because he always told me I would make the Olympic games. Sadly he never made it to watch it. I think she was excited to be here, knowing he had told her it wasn’t to be made.”
Although, like McColgan, Waite felt she could have done better, she too was stunned by the reception from the crowd. “That was so unreal,” the 28-year-old said. “Not the last two laps that I wanted, but I can’t even be the slightest bit upset.
“I’ve never felt so loved in my life. It was really great. I’ve been to concerts before and people cheer for musicians, and I’ve thought it would be awesome to experience that. Today I did. It was so awesome.”
Valerie Adams from New Zealand took her third consecutive Games shot-put title with a best attempt of 19.88m. Scotland’s Kirsty Yates was eighth with 16.42, while teasm-mate Alison Rodger was tenth with a best put of 14.76 and was eliminated after the first three rounds.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada won the heptathlon, and Kimberley Mickle of Australia took gold in the javelin. There were no Scots in either event.