THE Commonwealth Games may still be a year away, but this weekend’s national championships at Scotstoun are the closest there will be to a trial for the Scotland team.
With the qualifying period already open and the last tranche of selections due to take place next June, athletes are being given every chance to stake their claim for a place this year, knowing they will not have much time to do so at the start of next season.
With entries for the championships up 20 per cent this year, Scottish Athletics’ director of coaching Stephen Maguire is happy to see how many competitors have committed to taking part at a time when the eyes of the athletics world are fixated on the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
“It’s not been put on a date to attract the elite,” Maguire said yesterday. “It’s about the membership. It’s about people competing against each other. It’s about big entries.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the people who have done Commonwealth standards or who are close to qualification, just to see how they react in heats and finals.
“Some of the fields are loaded, like the men’s hammer with the three boys who are all ranked top six in the Commonwealth.
“From our point of view, it should be the pinnacle of an athlete’s season.
“That’s no disrespect to the people in Moscow, but being national champion is special.”
While seven Scots are in the Great Britain team in Russia, one of our most successful competitors at international level, Steph Twell, will race in the 1,500 metres.
Although she won over 5,000m at the British Championships last month, Twell was omitted from the team for Moscow because she was just outside the A-standard time. It was a tough call for an athlete who also lost out on London 2012 because of injury, but Maguire is confident that the former world junior champion is steadily getting back to her best.
“I’m not putting her under any pressure at all. She’s an undoubted talent. She had the trauma of the injury and then the non-selection for the Olympics and then the worlds. That’s difficult for her personally.
“But I said to her: ‘You’ll come out stronger.’ Talent like she has doesn’t disappear. She might have to fight to get it all back again. But I’ve every faith she’ll come back better and stronger.”
More than 30 Scottish athletes have already met the qualifying standards for Glasgow 2014, and Maguire thinks that the track-and-field team’s medal count could get into double figures.
“Being realistic, we probably have a dozen who are in the medal zone — ten to 12 who could realistically challenge for a medal.”
The first batch of selections in September will consist mainly of those who are deemed to be medal contenders, are fit at present, and have qualified.
“What you’re looking for are the potential medallists, to take that pressure out of the way,” Maguire explained. “Of course, you’re going to have to be fit and injury-free. But that’s a given for that group.
“You look at Eilidh Child, who’s a medal contender. She needs to be pre-selected so her and [her coach] Malcolm Arnold can have a normal programme. They’ve nothing to prove to anyone.”
European 800m champion Lynsey Sharp, however, is one medal prospect who will not be selected next month, as she has been injured this season. But Maguire sees Sharp’s omission as no more than a technicality.
“She’s European champion – she’s shown she can compete at the highest level.
“Lynsey’s had an unfortunate season with a niggling injury, but that won’t matter, because she is going to be medal potential and she’ll run the standard quite easily. It doesn’t matter if she’s selected in September or June.”