AFTER a year in which she had to prepare for two major competitions, Eilidh Child is looking forward to the relative simplicity of 2015, when she can focus solely on the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. But she knows that, while planning the season may be simple, winning the gold medal in the Bird’s Nest stadium will be a whole lot trickier.
A couple of months away from her 28th birthday, Child is approaching her peak. She became European champion this year just a few weeks after winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, and last week was named Kukri Scottish Athlete of the Year.
But Kaliese Spencer, the Jamaican who beat her to 400 metres hurdles gold in Glasgow, remains a formidable opponent. And, with domestic opposition also increasing with the return from injury of England’s Perri Shakes-Drayton, Child expects she will have to keep on improving merely to be in contention in China.
“It’s wonderful, because it’s so easy,” Child said yesterday when asked about being able to concentrate on the one big event next season. “Well, not easy, but it just means you can plan things a lot better. [Concentrating on beating Spencer is] probably the wrong mindset to have, because although she is the target there are so many other girls I’ll need to beat on the day too. For me it’s basically about how can I get better. That’s more the aim.
“I always concentrate on things I can control, because I can’t control what she’s going to do, so if I can just make sure I get faster, I get stronger, I get technically better, then hopefully I can get one over on her. The thing is you’re going to have people like [world champion Zuzana] Hejnova back next year: you don’t know what she’s going to come out and do and there’s always someone that comes through.
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“Every year there’s somebody makes a surprise time, so you just don’t know what’s going to happen next season. So it’s just about making sure I’m faster and I’m harder to beat.”
Child believes the return of Shakes-Drayton will help in that regard, as the improvement in her own times appears to depend on her rivalry with her Great Britain team-mate.
“It’s definitely healthy – the pair of us have always said that we’ve kept each other on our toes. This is the first year I’ve not run a personal best. And I’ve always run a PB when I’ve had her there.
“It’s good for the sport and it keeps people interested, if you’ve got this domestic rivalry that transfers on to a global stage. It’s brilliant. So it would be good if she came back fully fit and we had a great domestic battle.
“But we’ve got Meghan Beasley. There’s a young girl, Shona Richards, coming through who has smashed Perri’s junior records. So although I’ll be watching Perri, I’ve got to keep my eye on the others coming through. God knows what they’ll do.”
At the last world championships in Moscow last year, Child came fifth. It was final confirmation that, after years of steady improvement, the Scot was a world-class athlete. Nonetheless, it was a showing that left her coach Malcolm Arnold less than satisfied, as well as convincing Child that it is realistic next year to target a medal.
“It’s got to be,” she said. “Obviously I want to run faster and things like that, but I think that’s the next progression, being able to make that step up.
“Although in terms of personal best I was ranked maybe third or fourth in the world last year, in terms of positions I was ranked second, because the only person who always beat me was Kaliese. So I definitely think I’m in amongst it now and I should be someone that goes there and contends for a medal. I was fifth in Moscow and if you speak to Malcolm he says I should have won a bronze medal because he said I ran crap, so it’s definitely in me, it’s just about getting it out.
“You want to be the best. You train hard because you want to be the best, so it would be amazing just to get a world medal, but obviously gold is what everybody wants and there’s no reason why it can’t be me fighting for it as well. You just never know what’s going to happen, but I’ll definitely put up a hard fight for it anyway.
“At the end of 2013, after finishing fifth at the world championships, I sat down with Malcolm and we spoke about what I would do next year. He said I needed to do more Diamond Leagues because I needed to expose myself to that level of competition.
“I think that was the key – gradually doing Diamond League races and finishing in the top three every time I ran. That was when I gradually thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is where I should be’. Maybe Malcolm always knew I should be at that level. He used to get frustrated with me, because my technique always held me back. He used to say, ‘It’s in there, it’s just about getting it out of you’.”
Child was talking at Grangemouth Stadium, the new home of the track which was used at Hampden for the Commonwealth Games. She will still be mainly based in Bath next year, but she will look forward to coming home and using the Games track, which evokes special memories for her of Glasgow 2014. “It sounds funny but it actually smells the same. It’s almost like when the rain hits it, tracks have certain smells...
“I suppose that sounds really weird, but when I smell it reminds me of Hampden. I can recapture that moment.”
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