IT IS not an extreme makeover, insists Malcolm Arnold, more a subtle aesthetic tweak. However, the veteran coaching guru believes his off-season revamp of Eilidh Child has produced a competitor ready to showcase her true capabilities rather than leave them forever concealed.
Now in his sixth decade as an arch manipulator of athletes, Arnold is well placed to judge whether the Scot can make the leap forward which he believes she is destined for.
Harsh truths have been imparted and taken in, particularly following an Olympic campaign which saw Child reach the semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles in London but go no further. That was not the result the Commonwealth silver medallist of 2010 had in mind when she put her teaching career on hold 16 months ago and re-located to Bath, entrusting her future to a man who had guided Colin Jackson and Dai Greene to world titles.
Her mentor had expected her to make immediate strides. “But she didn’t make quite the progress we wanted,” he admits. Hence he has been pushing her to the limit in a bid to generate a tougher breed of Child.
“So far it’s gone very well,” Arnold states. “We were in South Africa for three weeks and she’s hurdled better than I’ve ever seen her before. All the signs are very positive.
“It’s just a matter of Eilidh’s attitude and being fitter psychologically.
“We sat down after the Olympics and talked over things. The thing we really flagged up was her attitude. There was just too much timidity. That’s something she’s been guilty of and we’re trying to change that.”
In her first run of 2013, Child, 25, came fourth in the flat 400 metres at last Saturday’s indoor international in Glasgow and she will be pushed again at next weekend’s UK Championships in Sheffield. The event doubles as the trials for March’s European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg and Child’s potential as a member of the British relay squad will come under scrutiny from the new regime at British Athletics.
Arnold liked what he saw from his protégé on her initial showing. It bodes well for the year ahead, he insists. “We’re not so much pursuing speed work but making her run a bit more aggressively,” he said.
“Which she did in Glasgow. She’s been a bit timid in her hurdling. This is a ploy to get her to run faster for longer.”
Meanwhile, 800-metre runner Guy Learmonth believes that his own refreshed regime can deliver a regular place in the Great Britain team. The 20-year-old Borderer delivered an accomplished showing in Vienna in midweek, underlining his renewed confidence following an off-season during which he drastically raised his workload at his base in Loughborough under his wise old coach George Gandy.
It was initially a shock to the system, he acknowledged. “But I took a long look at what everyone else was doing and I thought: ‘If that’s what is takes’.”
Learmonth will now go to Sheffield with the expectation of challenging for a berth in Gothenburg, and then more.
“We’re all ready for a big breakthrough,” he declared.
Learmonth, whose current outdoor best is 1:47.14, added: “I feel like I’ve done a lot as a junior domestically but it’s time to take it to the next level and mix it with the best in the world.”
SCOTTISH distance running legend Ian Stewart is leaving his role as UK Athletics’ head of endurance with immediate effect.
Stewart, who won European and Commonwealth gold over 5,000 metres in 1969 and 1970 respectively, combined his endurance role with that of meet director for Britain’s televised events.
UKA chief executive Niels de Vos said: “Ian has been central to the success of our televised events for years and he has helped train the new team since we brought our events programme in-house, and he now leaves us in great shape to take these events from strength to strength.”