GEMMA Nicol is aiming to become the first woman in 143 years to win the annual New Year Sprint at Musselburgh.
In this special Olympic year of 2012 when try, try and try again has been rewarded with gold it might seem appropriate, even though the Sprint, which starts with heats tomorrow, finishes in 2013, with the final on New Year’s Day.
In Nicol’s case it would certainly not be for want of trying. The 26-year-old from Lochgelly, who was the youngest athlete ever to be named in a Scottish Commonwealth Games team when chosen for the 400 metres relay in 2002 at the age of 15, has been a New Year finalist five times.
She was runner-up in 2006, third in 2003, fifth in 2005 and sixth in 2004 and 2007, on the latter occasion behind her mother Wendy, who was third.
For all the grand gesture towards equality made in the Seventies, when Jarrow’s Christine Miller became the first woman to race in the event, you get the feeling that successive handicappers cannot quite risk giving female competitors a “lift” to create another little bit of sporting history.
“I shan’t be doing any special preparation,” said Nicol, pictured, ahead of the meet on the heavy grass track at Musselburgh Racecourse. “I’m just going to turn up and see what my old body does.”
The draw has pitted her against the backmarker, 16-year-old Gambian-born Morro Bajo (Edinburgh) who starts off 3.5 metres in heat seven of the ten heats over the 110m distance. Nicol, whose mother is in the same heat off 28.75m, has a start of 16.5m. She is not the only female contender. Fiona Cleat (Edinburgh AC), the runner-up in 2010, is in heat five off 20.25 with her clubmate Sarah Warnock rated a good chance off 20 metres in the same heat.
Susan Young (Dundee Hawkhill, 19.75m) is in heat two and Amy Clancy (Peebles 18.75m) in heat one.
But can one of them collect not just the £4,000 first prize but a special place in the annals of pedestrianism?