SECOND need not always feel like first failure. Athletes are often frustrated by falling just short of the top spot, but Eilidh Child knew she had excelled in being runner-up in the 400 metres hurdles.
On a wet and windy night at the national stadium, the Scot could do nothing else but concede second best to the woman she acclaimed as the worthiest of champions, Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica. And, while thousands in the crowd had turned up primarily in the hope of seeing Child win gold, they too acclaimed a fair outcome to the race.
The 27-year-old’s career highlights so far show that she claimed a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 2010 and again last night, but any notion that she has stood still over those four years is simply ludicrous. Child has moved on, the event has moved on, and Spencer, also 27, has matured to the stage where she can now dominate her event for years to come.
Spencer crossed the line in 54.10sec, well over a second slower than her personal best in an indication of how risk-averse the hurdlers had to be on the damp track. Child was nearly a second behind in 55.02 – her time in the far more benign conditions of Delhi four years ago was 55.62 – while another Jamaican, Janieve Russell, took bronze in 55.64.
“There was nothing more I could have done,” Child said after a lap of honour in which she seemed to find close friends in every corner of the ground. “ I’m so happy.
“I said after the Olympics that I came off feeling I could have done more, but when I came off here I had nothing left. My legs were gone.
“The right girl won. I’m delighted to come away with a silver medal.
“It wasn’t my fastest race of the year, but in terms of how I executed it I was very happy. And I’ve got a silver to take away.
“That’s one of my best moments ever and to share it with my family makes it even more amazing. They were all dotted round there.
“My fiancé Brian and his son were at one bit and then there was my mum, my dad, my brother and his girlfriend somewhere else. My cousins, my sisters and my little niece, who slept through the whole thing, as well.
“My training partner Sian [Davies] was the first person I saw. I think I stole her flag, so I’ll have to give that back.”
The only irritating aspect of the evening for the staunch Hearts supporter – and even then it was a lighthearted one – was the fact that on her lap of honour the PA system played 500 Miles by the Proclaimers, well known as Hibs fans. “That wasn’t the best choice of song for me,” she said.
“I think my brother was more miffed. He was like, ‘You need to sort that out’. I actually got asked to do a couple of 5-1s as well, so hopefully that wasn’t seen on the camera! There was a Team Eilidh in maroon.”
Along with Michael Jamieson, who reacted with a whole lot less satisfaction when he won a silver medal in the pool on the first night of the Games, Child was the most publicised member of the Scottish team in the build-up to the event. But no matter the national expectation of her, she believes she was in a different position to the swimmer.
“I think I had an easier job than Michael, because I wasn’t the out-and-out favourite going into that race. I was always the underdog against Kaliese, so I think I had a little bit less pressure than Michael did.
“I think Michael has had a bit of a rough deal, because I think he swam brilliantly – it’s just that Ross [Murdoch] swam better, and that happens in sport. He should be proud of how he competed.
“I know he wanted to win, but I’ve always said you can’t control who wins the race, as long as you go out and put on a good performance.
“I think he did brilliantly, and that’s what I’m happy with: I put on a good performance.
“It wasn’t enough for gold, but I’ll cherish my silver medal.”
Scottish athletics as a whole will cherish it too, because, along with Libby Clegg’s sprint gold and Mark Dry’s hammer bronze, it means the national track-and-field team already has its best return from any Games since 1990, when it won five.
“I’m just delighted,” the hurdler added.
“I saw Mark win his medal the other night and we’re all so proud of him. Everyone’s been doing really well and it’s just great that I can add to that as well and hopefully give everyone else a boost that’s going to compete tomorrow.”
Child herself may sit out today’s heats of the 4x400 relay, but she hopes to be back for tomorrow’s final.
After that, she will have virtually no time to rest before the European Championships in Zurich next month.
“I think I’ll be rested for the heat, but I’ll come down with the girls and be there in case they need me,” she said of the relay.
“Hopefully they’ll do enough to get to the final and I’ll come in for the final and add something to it.
“I’m ranked No 1 in Europe, so I want to go there and contend again and hopefully come back with another medal.
“It’s a strange one, because I don’t have recovery after this, but I think I’ll benefit from only having two rounds here, because I’m a little bit fresher than if I’d had three rounds.
“I’m in good hands with Malcolm [Arnold, her coach]. We’ll go back, sit down, and try to do the best things in the next couple of weeks to be ready for the Europeans.”