EILISH McColgan and Eilidh Child have become the first Scottish athletes to be assured of their places at the Olympic Games, thanks to their performances at the Aviva Trials in Birmingham yesterday.
Child had to make do with second place behind Perri Shakes-Drayton in the 400 metres hurdles but, having already recorded the ‘A’ qualifying time, knew that was enough to join the Londoner in the team. McColgan, who had been ill all week and on the verge of pulling out of the meeting, ran a more tactical 3,000m steeplechase than she would have if fully fit, but took command in the last lap to win with something to spare. Neither woman managed a flawless race – Child stuttered on the last hurdle when in the lead and McColgan had an early stumble on the water jump – but this event was about qualification, not perfection.
“I could have done without the fall,” McColgan said after clocking 9min 56.89, more than five seconds clear of England’s Hatti Archer. McColgan’s fellow-Scot, Emily Stewart, was third in 10:02.85.
“I was panicking, so much going through my head,” continued the Dundonian, who came into the meeting with an A standard already under her belt. “I kept thinking ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic’, and when you think like that you end up tripping up.
“My first lap wasn’t the best, but I felt OK towards the end. I felt like I was getting into myself and running again like I normally do. I’m really pleased to be able to pick up like that at the end and to pull away from everyone. I felt good.”
At times last week, McColgan was unsure she could run, and her mother and coach Liz had to think of withdrawing her from the trials. Not long ago the 21-year-old regarded getting to the Olympics as a near impossibility, after she broke her ankle last season.
“At Christmas time I was on crutches and I couldn’t walk,” she said. “To come from that – if someone said I’d be going to the Olympic Games this year I would just have laughed at them.
“It was so unrealistic back then. I was nowhere near even going out for a jog, never mind coming here. I’m just so, so happy to come through that injury, come through illness now and win this race. I’ll just have to make sure that my preparations are perfect for the Games.”
Liz, who was by the side of the track to greet her daughter barely 30 seconds after her win, said she was prouder of Eilish’s achievement than anything she did in her own illustrious career, which included winning the 10,000m at the 1991 World Championships.
“It’s far better seeing Eilish do it,” she said. “That gives me much more pride than anything I did in athletics – much more. Nothing compares to it.
“I was really nervous, the first time I’ve ever been this nervous watching her. 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.”
Child, having just seen a winning run of seven races brought to an end, was initially bitterly disappointed to come second. But she took consolation from coach Malcolm Arnold’s advice that the real prize, a place at London, was there for first or second place, and that therefore she should not be too downhearted about being runner-up.
“When it’s as close as that it’s a bit bittersweet,” Child said after recording 55.53 to Shakes-Drayton’s 55.45. “But I’m happy – better being beaten here than at the Olympics. Hopefully in the Olympics I’ll give myself a good kick in the arse coming down the home straight.
“Malcolm said: ‘Look, don’t do anything silly. Go out there, top two is all you need.’ And that’s what I did. You get frustrated when you make mistakes like that, but hopefully I’ll get it right when it matters.”
Mark Dry from Burghead came second in the hammer behind England’s Alex Smith, and now hopes that a good performance in the Euros will persuade the selectors to include him in the Olympic team. Smith was a clear winner with 74.79m to Dry’s 73.25, but the Scot has four B standards to Smith’s one – which, with no Briton having come close to the A mark, could be enough to tip the balance in his favour when the selectors meet a week today.
Dry’s best throw was originally given a red flag for a foot fault, and only ruled legal on appeal some time after the event had ended. Although it would not have been long enough to win gold, he argued that had it been ruled legal at the time it could still have put pressure on the winner.
The victory for McColgan made it two AAAs titles for Scots over the weekend, Lynsey Sharp having triumphed in the 800m on Saturday. Child and Dry were joined as silver medallists by Gregor MacLean, a joint second in the pole vault. Stewart’s steeplechase bronze brought the total to four, the others having been won on Saturday by Kirsty Law in the discus, Lee McConnell in the 400m and Chris O’Hare in the 1500m.