Eilidh was like a Child in a sweetie shop…
Eilidh Child will take a break after her final meet of the season in Birmingham this afternoon and, as she soaks in the Scottish scenery at a secluded cottage by the side of a loch, it will offer her the chance to exhale after a summer which registered high on the scales of surreal incidents and emotionally draining moments.
Her aim was always to qualify for the home Olympics but, having done that, the reality was way more than the dream, even if her on-track performance was not every-thing she had hoped for.
The 400m hurdler was only in the athletes village five minutes when she gate-crashed a royal line-up but even that was overshadowed by an introduction to her sporting hero and king of the velodrome, Chris Hoy. The reception from the home crowd was the most spine-tingling moment of all.
“It was an amazing experience and one I will never have again,” said Perth’s 2010 Commonwealth silver medallist. “Whatever major championship comes up next, it’s not going to be as big as a home Olympic games. In terms of my performance I would like to have given a better account of myself. Apart from that, it was incredible.
“In the first five minutes of being in the village we met Prince William and Prince Harry and Kate Middleton. That was surreal because it was me, Jess [Ennis] and Nicola Sanders, who was part of the 4x400m team in the same apartment and we looked out the window and saw them downstairs. We figured that, because we had Jess with us, we would probably have a good chance of meeting them! So we stood in this line of people and they introduced themselves and spoke to us. Kate was polite and asked when we had arrived and William was the same, but Harry was a bit more chatty. He was asking about our events and telling us about what he had been to see.”
Celeb-spotting in the dining area, Child says, of all the famous faces on parade, the highlight was meeting fellow Scot Hoy. “I love him, he’s my hero. The first time I saw him I was actually a bit starstruck and didn’t actually do anything but I was sitting with Jess at the time and she said she knew him so the next time we saw him, she introduced me and I got a photo so that was my best moment.”
Since the Olympics finished sports venues and athletic clubs have been experiencing a surge in interest, the legacy showing signs of being a lasting one.
As she prepared for today’s Aviva Grand Prix at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, Child, who reached the semi-finals in London, says she well understands the concept of inspiring a generation. She put her teaching career on hold and moved down to train in Bath and being close to those who won medals was motivating. It was also emotionally exhausting at times.
“I watched Super Saturday in the apartment. My two training partners were in the men’s hurdles and Dai Greene almost didn’t qualify for the final. I watched Jack Green run and he fell and it was awful but then, all of a sudden, everything got better and better. I was sharing an apartment with Jess so to watch her was just incredible and then Greg [Rutherford] and Mo [Farah], I went from being so down to being so emotional and it was draining.”
While there was some criticism that athletics did not deliver in the way cycling or rowing did, Child says there has to be a greater understanding of the different difficulties presented by each sport. Having peaked to get the qualifying time, she found it hard to peak again so soon after to give her best in London. And, while the number of countries represented in certain sports is small, in athletics well over 100 countries were involved with more than 2,000 participants vying for just 47 gold medals.
“Scotland is a very small nation and to get to the Olympics is a big achievement. We get disappointed as athletes because we want to do better but I do think there needs to be a bit more interest in the sport and that is why, on the back of these Olympics and leading into the 2014 Commonwealth Games, we need to encourage that. There was no male Scottish athlete in the GB team and that is a shame but we need to work out why. Is it because the standards have really gone up this year and other athletes are delivering? Or, is it because we need more development in Scotland?
“People have to be realistic as well because we are talking about a really high standard and reaching the Olympics isn’t an easy feat.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West