Eilidh Child will seek signs that her winter’s work will ultimately pay the dividends she craves when the European 400 metres hurdles champion starts her 2016 campaign in the opening leg of the Diamond League series tonight in Doha.
Bedevilled by inconsistency last summer, the 28-year-old Scot confessed to a crisis of confidence in her ability to marry raw speed with jumping technique, a combination which seemed perfectly harmonious 12 months before when only the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kaliese Spencer stood ahead of her in the world rankings.
The Jamaican will line up beside her in the Qatari capital. So too the Czech Zuzana Hejnova, who took the world title in Beijing last year. It will be the ideal initial benchmark, Child admits, as the countdown to Rio begins.
“It’s a stacked field,” she said. “And I can’t help what anyone else does. It’s about coming off the track and knowing I’ve done everything in my power. Whether that means I’m third or sixth, it’s about nailing the race and knowing I’ve got what I want.”
With her former British rival Perri Shakes-Drayton unlikely to return to hurdling following the horrific injury she sustained three years ago, Child will be wary of the advances made by English prospect Meghan Beesley as a threat to her domestic supremacy. Yet, bar the emergence of an unexpected challenger, the pair should be able to plan for Rio and focus body and mind on how far they might go.
“The whole focus is on Doha,” Child said. “But it’s difficult not to think beyond that, to the trials, to Rio, especially when you see people starting to get the qualifying times. You do want to make sure you’re a part of it. It’s all been geared towards the first race. But you do think about the bigger picture, what you’re working towards, which is the Olympics.”
Eilish McColgan will race the 3,000 metres in Doha, six days after reigniting her career with an electrifying personal best over 5,000m in California. And the 25-year-old, who missed all of last year due to injury, has signalled that she is unlikely to risk a return to the steeplechase now that she has proven her status on the track.
“I could have got round in the steeple,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be sitting at home when the Olympics were on. But now I’ve done that time, I’m even more confident about going for it in 5,000. It’s quite promising I can get close to 15 minutes and I’d hope that’s good enough to secure a place in the team.”
Elsewhere, British pair Adelle Tracey and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke face Glasgow 2014 gold medallist Eunice Sum over 800m while London 2012 bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz makes his summer debut in the high jump.
Meanwhile, Sarah Inglis, newly-returned from altitude training in Arizona, will defend her Scottish 5K title tonight at Silverknowes.