Foundation to reward Morrison

TWELVE months ago Catriona Morrison believed she was slipping into semi-retirement. She had just taken a job as an active schools co-ordinator in West Lothian and thought that this year would see her struggle to balance the demands of full-time work with her sport.

Having decided to focus on duathlon rather than the Olympic discipline of triathlon, Morrison's lottery funding was gone - and so were her days as a full-time athlete.

Or so she thought. But as of last weekend, when she added the world duathlon title to her European crown and thus became the first person to hold both at the same time, the 30-year-old is on the brink of reverting back to being a full-time athlete, thanks to the Scottish Institute of Sport Foundation.

On Saturday, less than a week after her world duathlon triumph in Virginia, Morrison took delivery of a written proposal from the Foundation. In a move that is as imaginative as it is bold and ambitious she is now set to join Gregor Townsend as an employee of the Foundation, which was set up by the rugby international turned oil entrepreneur Sir Bill Gammell and is backed by money from Scottish businesses and the Scottish Executive.

Townsend is due to begin his role with the Foundation next month, and Morrison seems likely to join him in January. Together they will act as mentors to athletes as part of the Winning Scots initiative, which aims to foster a culture of excellence - and winning - in Scottish sport. Morrison's role will not be too dissimilar to her current job as active schools co-ordinator, in that she will make school visits and deliver workshops to some of the country's younger sports people.

But, crucially, she will also have time to train, and to organise her working life around her commitments as an athlete. Thoughts of retirement, or even semi-retirement, are back on hold.

A week on Saturday, in Florida, she is competing in another world championship - a triathlon over the half-ironman distance - and she is hopeful of carrying the good form from Virginia into the longer event.

"The pessimistic side of my brain says I should be aiming for the top ten," she says, "but the optimist in me says I could finish top five."

It was the Foundation that allowed Morrison to compete this year, offering her a grant of 7,000 to prepare properly for the European championships, which were held in Edinburgh.

The money allowed Morrison to go part time and it paid off for the Foundation, with their athlete winning the event by over four minutes. As for the change in her fortunes, she says: "I could never have expected this opportunity to come up, but it's fantastic. It's very exciting to be part of and I want to make the most of it."

Millar leads Bravehearts

MORE than 30,000 was raised on Saturday night at the fifth annual Braveheart Cycling Fund dinner in Kilmarnock. The fund exists to support talented young Scottish cyclists, in all disciplines, many of whom were at the dinner, along with some of the stars of the sport, including current Tour de France rider David Millar and retired stars of the sport Sean Kelly, Sean Yates, Allan Peiper and Scott Sunderland, whose children acted as mascots at the Kilmarnock v Hearts game.

Although Millar spent the early part of his childhood in Forres, and the fact that both his parents are Scottish, there has always been a question mark over his nationality, and, incredibly, Saturday was his first public appearance north of the Border.

He explained on stage that the evening confirmed his Scottishness: "Wherever I've been I've felt a bit odd and strange and I always thought it was because I never felt I belonged anywhere. But tonight I've met so many odd and strange people, and now I understand that must be my Scottishness."

Millar donated several items to the auction, including his British champion's jersey, raising more than 1,000.

Thanked for his generosity, he rather took the sheen off it when he explained: "I've got so much cr*p at home." Millar, who promised to return with more "cr*p" for the auction next year, also presented a trophy for Braveheart rider of the year to Ruaridh Cunningham, the junior world downhill champion.

In five years, Cunningham is the fund's first world champion and he received a well deserved standing ovation as he entered the room.

Hood set for silver screen

THE film-makers behind the recent and acclaimed Craig MacLean film, Standing Start, are turning their lenses on another Scottish athlete, the junior steeplechaser Nicola Hood.

Hood has had an outstanding season, breaking the Scottish record on several occasions, but she is finding it a little surreal to find her sporting career immortalised on film.

Like the MacLean picture, the Hood film will offer an alternative perspective on the athlete and her sport. It's being funded by Dumfries and Galloway Council, who have also commissioned Imagine Pictures to make a third sporting film, this one a little different again. The subject is a 73-year old powerlifter, Bill McFadyen.

McFadyen, from Stranraer, is a multiple world champion - in his age category, obviously - and is, according to Finlay Pretsell of Imagine Pictures, a fascinating subject. Asked what makes him fascinating, Pretsell says: "He's a 73-year old man trying to lift three times his body weight." Such a feat would allow him to achieve his main goal - entry to the Guinness Book of World Records. This year has already seen him crowned Wigtownshire sports personality of the year.

Vipond faces hectic D-day

DOUGIE Vipond is set to be the busiest man in Scotland on 9 November, D-day for Glasgow's 2014 Commonwealth Games bid. Having already provided some of the commentary to the bid team's final "knock 'em dead" film, which will be shown in Sri Lanka, he will also be on duty as a BBC sports reporter at the big party being held at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow.

On Saturday he also discovered that he would be required to dig out his drumsticks to join his old band, Deacon Blue. It was confirmed on Friday that they would join Amy Macdonald on the stage, though this was news to Vipond. "Deacon Blue are playing, are they?" he asked. "Goodness, I will be busy then."

Anyone who wants to attend the all-ticket event has until Thursday to apply for tickets - see "It'll be a hell of a party if Glasgow gets it," says Vipond.

The alternative scenario doesn't bear thinking about, though one hopes the misspelling of Allan Wells' name in the official announcement of the D-day party isn't a bad omen.

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