In 59 days’ time, Eilidh Child will pull on a wedding dress and undergo a metamorphosis into Mrs Doyle. “You can get all the Father Ted puns in, if you like,” joked the European 400-metre hurdles champion of her forthcoming wedding to fiancé Brian.
The table names, she reveals, will consist of famous stadia which have served as notable stops on an already illustrious career. Zurich’s Letzigrund, where she claimed her European title last year, is sure to feature. Hampden and Delhi’s Nehru, scene of her Commonwealth silvers, too. A placard, she hints, remains open for the Bird’s Nest should Beijing’s glistening arena provide additional euphoria. A medal from the world championships would be cause for a celebration that would extend well into her nuptials and the honeymoon beyond.
Brian has been left with an extensive to-do list. “I have the get-out-of-jail-free card because I’ve got other things to do,” his bride-to-be said, with a note of relief. Training at her base in Bath was followed by a stint in Japan before moving onward to China ahead of her opening heat in the small hours of our tomorrow morning. At the age of 28, and in her fourth appearance at the showpiece, there is a familiar habit to her routine.
Yet there is still something magical, she says, about lining up in a venue where legends have been written. Since 2008, an iconic Olympic stadium in which Christine Ohuruogu claimed 400m gold has lain largely unused. What went on within created stories by the dozen.
“I remember finishing work and listening to Tasha Danvers win her medal on the radio,” recalled Child, who was then still teaching full-time in Perth. “I remember watching Christine. They’re the two real moments that I remember from Beijing. Everyone remembers the stadium. Everyone remembers the way it looked and what a show they put on. I can’t wait to get there and see it. That’s what I’ve really been looking forward to since knowing it was going to be in Beijing and making the team.”
Her confidence remains unbroken even if her personal best of 54.22 seconds, to her great frustration, has solidified over the past two summers. A tweak to her stride pattern, implemented last winter, was designed to maximise the advantage from her increase in speed but it has left the Scot marginally off the pace of her rivals.
“If I can just step on the track and I’ve given it absolutely everything, and there’s nothing more I could have done in that race, then I’ll be happy with whatever happens,” she added. “Whether it’s a medal, which would be amazing, or whether it’s sixth or seventh.”
Never rule it out, she insisted. Even with the recent emergence of the USA’s world junior champion Shamier Little – the rankings leader – to challenge defending champion Zuzana Hejnova and Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer, who is fit again after a mid-season injury.
Let the best win fair and square. However Child is not immune to the plague currently visiting athletics’ house, despite the defiant defences of the sport in Beijing. Much attention this weekend will be on the 100 metres battle between the valiant Usain Bolt and track’s bogeyman Justin Gatlin, with new IAAF chief Lord Coe predicting he will feel “queasy” if the American serial doper walks away with gold.
These are vital issues, the Scot acknowledges, but to feel paranoia would be to succumb. “Every time I step on the line I believe that everybody against me is clean. People might say it’s naïve but I do believe that. You have to. The sad thing is that some people run brilliant times. They are phenomenal. Some people might doubt them, but I just think you have to respect the athletes you run against. I have to believe that they’re doing it because they’re working hard like me.”