GIVE or take a few celebrated interlopers from Africa, the Caribbean, the Antipodes and Wales, the rivalry that defines next year’s Commonwealth Games for the majority of observers will be Scotland v England.
In a few cases, Scotland v Scotland will also be a source of internecine intrigue, and especially at Hampden Park.
Jade Nimmo is the host nation’s No 1 long jumper. Last year she leapt 6.47 metres to break a 39-year-old Scottish record. Sarah Warnock was lagging behind, knee-deep in her radiography studies but she graduated this summer, and that was good news for her athletics career. She beat Nimmo and Lisa Ferguson at the Scottish Championships with a best legal leap of 6.24m, which was her second qualifying standard for Glasgow 2014.
It would be possible to argue until July about whether or not the track-and-field bar was set too low. Has Scottish athletics set itself up for a fall by making qualification such a gentle affair? The Commonwealth Games is not the Olympics and it will not be a turkey shoot in the National Stadium, but, in some events, there may be three Scots competing and not one in the mix for medals. The long jump, where Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare is a world leader and Shara Proctor is at the vanguard of a strong English unit, might be one such blight on the home charge, and if so, words will be traded about qualifying standards being too kind. Then again, there is a chance that some Scottish athletes will benefit from the springboard of selection coming their way early in the piece, exceed expectations and even beat more renowned peers onto the podium. Both 22, it will be interesting to see how Nimmo and Warnock fare, both against the talent they come up against and against each other.
“I think the fact we’ve been able to select two Scottish long jumpers already only bodes well,” said Warnock. “You want the event to move forward and that helps to push you forward as well. It’s quite nice to have that competition there.
“With the size of the crowd we are going to be competing in front of in Glasgow, it’s going to be a big shock but it will be very exciting, too. I’ve never competed in front of anything like that.
“Long jump in the Commonwealth countries is pretty strong. You’ve got Blessing Okagbare who is a seven- metre long jumper, and she is going to be there. My aim is to do the best I can no matter who is competing so, if I come away with a PB or have made the final, something like that, I’ll be happy.”
Nimmo and Warnock have taken different paths to get to the sandpit that now offers them the chance to perform in front of 44,000 people, plus many more on television.
Warnock didn’t settle on the long jump until she was competing at under-20 level, and although she “quadrupled up” during a recent appearance for Edinburgh AC by also competing in the triple jump, high jump and 4x100m relay, she did so to help her club, and because it was “fun”.
Nimmo is rather more serious about her versatility, having created through experimentation a possible fall back option. If her favoured event doesn’t take her as far as she wants to go, then she will consider following Jessica Ennis-Hill into the heptathlon.
The Falkirk athlete is attracted by the challenge and will give it further thought post-Glasgow. At the moment all roads lead to Hampden, and that long, thin stretch into sand.
“I did an indoor heptathlon in January, minus the 200m and javelin, and enjoyed it. It brought back memories of when I was younger, competing across a range of sports.
“For the previous four years I had been focused on the long jump alone and wanted a different motivation for the indoor season,” said Nimmo.
“I looked at Jessica and other heptathletes and the length of their jumps was still up there in terms of the British rankings. It isn’t detrimental to their long jump performance and there are fitness gains to be made from events such as the 800m.
“It may be something I look at after Glasgow, but I’m focused on long jump for the Commonwealth Games,” Nimmo added.
“It’s amazing all Jessica has achieved because there are so many ups and downs with the heptathlon. You have to contend with injury and commit to training twice a day every day. It’s tough.
“It’s something I would like to try but I was always driven to compete in the long jump in Glasgow. I want to reach my potential in that discipline.”