Eilish McColgan booked her place at the London Olympics with a commanding performance in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the Aviva Trials on Sunday, but yesterday her mother Liz warned it will be a couple of years before we see the best of the 21-year-old.
McColgan junior was one of two Scots to win an event at the three-day trials in Birmingham, the other being Lynsey Sharp in the 800m. And her victory over the gruelling seven-and-a-half-lap race was all the more impressive given that she had been ill throughout the preceding week.
But winning at UK level is just the start. Before Eilish becomes a contender at world level, she will need a couple more years’ experience, according to her mother – and she should know, having won world championship gold and Olympic silver over 10,000m.
“When she gets to London, if she makes a final then I think that’s fantastic,” said Liz, who is also Eilish’s coach. “But Eilish is more about four years’ time and that’s always been the case.
“I think she could medal in Glasgow [at the 2014 Commonwealth Games] and she could medal in Rio [at the 2016 Olympics].
“I’ll tell her to enjoy everything that comes with the Olympics. This one is about experience and she’s got to enjoy being part of the team, being away, getting used to what the team is all about.
“She’s got to go and soak it all up. London’s going to be really special, and it’s great she’s going to be a part of it now.
“But we need to go away now and get some training done. I think she can still run a lot faster. I’m looking for her to run sub 9min 30sec. The Olympics was one of the goals, but running 9:30 by the end of the year is another.”
The winning time on Sunday was 9:56.89, which may make it look as if McColgan has an almost impossible task to achieve the goal set by her mother. But that time was set in a race which was all about conserving energy and ensuring she finished in the top two – all she needed, having already recorded a qualifying time, to make sure of a place in the Great Britain team for the Olympics.
If she had been fully fit, McColgan would either have broken clear with two or three laps to go or at least forced the pace. Either way, she could easily have run five seconds or more faster.
As it was, having been close to being forced to pull out of the trials, she was simply relieved to make it round and claim the victory. The time was at most of secondary importance.
“She was really ill,” Liz said. “I was so concerned that I contacted the doctors back home and she was put on antibiotics.
“She had really bad headaches and a throat infection. It was really red, that’s why she got the antibiotics. She’s been on them for three days, just pumping them in there to see if she could get rid of it.
“I was able to tell her I’ve run through colds and dealt with it. She did some of the things I did, although she didn’t really like gargling with bicarbonate of soda.
“It was touch and go whether she could really perform at her best. It definitely changed her tactics. She was just going for a top-two place: I didn’t care whether she won or not.”
Having qualified for London, McColgan will not now compete at the European Championships, which begin tomorrow in Helsinki. Four other Scots – Eilidh Child, Sharp, Lee McConnell and Mark Dry – will still go, however, and it will be announced today whether Steph Twell, who missed the trials with a foot injury,will join them.
The omission of trials 1,500m bronze medallist Chris O’Hare from the team for Finland remains a talking point, given he is ranked above the two athletes competing in the event instead of him. Tom Lancashire was fifth in the final, while James Brewer failed to qualify from the heats.