FASTER. Fitter, Tougher. Eilidh Child is in the best shape she has ever been at this early stage of the season and expects that to be reflected in more personal best times for the 400-metres hurdles over the coming weeks.
The 26-year-old Scot has already set a new best of 54.93 seconds for the hurdles, and last weekend set a PB of 52.08 seconds for the flat 400.
Outgoing UK Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson has said that Child should be aiming for a medal at next weekend’s European Team Championships in Gateshead and, where once she might have felt a bit intimidated by such expectation, now she agrees with it.
“He’s probably right, to be honest,” Child said yesterday after training at the indoor track at Pitreavie in Dunfermline. “The way I’ve been running, and based on my indoor season, I should definitely be up there in contention.
“That’s quite flattering he said that – but no pressure. He’s realistic, and I need to be a bit more realistic with my goals and challenge myself a bit more.
“I think the last couple of years I’ve always said it would be a bonus to make the final, but now I’m getting to that point and that age where I want to be there, in the final and fighting for a medal. I should be confident.”
Child has been named in the 400m hurdles as well as the 4x400 relay squad for Gateshead, while perennial rival Perri Shakes-Drayton goes in the 400m and has been named as Great Britain & Northern Ireland team captain. This time at least there will be no worries about making it through the qualifying rounds, as each event is contested as a straight final.
Conditions permitting, the quality of competition at the event could inspire the Scot to run faster than ever but, if that does not happen, then she is still confident it will be soon – and possibly again later this year at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. “I expect to drop quite a big chunk [of time]. I don’t know when it will happen – hopefully in the next couple of weeks and then at the worlds as well.
“In my last couple of races there have still been mistakes I need to iron out. If I just get everything right, get good conditions, then I’ll really take a good chunk off my time.
“This is the best shape I’ve been in. This is the quickest I’ve been. It’s about getting it all right on the one day.
“I went to the indoor season confident. I think last year I was in good shape but didn’t necessarily believe it. It was almost as though I needed proof to see how well I was running. This year I don’t need proof or the times. I know I’m in good shape, and it’s just about delivering it.”
Of course, the competition at Gateshead is not so much about individual times as it is about getting as many points as possible for the team. The hurdles is among the events with the greatest strength in depth but, while Child knows the competition will be hard, she no longer feels intimidated by the eastern Europeans who are likely to be her main rivals for medals.
“I’m going to have the Russians, and the Ukrainians as well, so it’s going to be the top athletes in the world, and probably the Olympic champion will be in my race. I want to contend with these girls, I’m now racing against them a lot more regularly and it’s about forgetting about times and just racing.
“I’m definitely more confident when I’m running against these girls now, whereas last year I thought they were all so much better than me.
“I think the indoor season has given me a good confident boost. I’ve also started to speak to a sport psychologist after the Olympics, and I think he has really helped out everything into perspective – why I enjoy it so much.
“The training and the indoor season have shown me the speed is there. If I’m hurdling right then it should be good.”
Child is joined in the team for next weekend by fellow-Scots Eilish McColgan (3,000m steeplechase), Kirsten McAslan (4x400m), Mark Dry (hammer) and David Bishop (3,000m). The team includes four medallists from last year’s Olympic Games.
l Eilidh Child is a patron of the Thomas Mason Foundation, a Fife-based charity which supports the work of Fife sports groups with young people. For more information see www.thomasmasonfoundation.org