SCOTLAND’S athletes and swimmers were backed yesterday to make up for the absence of Sir Chris Hoy and rack up the medals at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Team Scotland chiefs have a long-stated ambition to surpass the record 33 medals won by Scots at the boycott-blighted 1986 Edinburgh Games, when the event comes to this country for the third time next summer.
Scotland’s best prospects of gold again lie in the pool, where Hannah Miley and Robbie Renwick will compete as reigning champions and Michael Jamieson will be expected to fare well as the 2012 Olympic silver medallist.
Athletics, however, will have the largest representation in the home team and the sport contributed 23 of the first 27 members of the squad, named yesterday at the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green.
Jon Doig, Team Scotland’s chef de mission, explained that he had been left “in very good heart” by the performances of Miley, Renwick and Jamieson at the recent World Swimming Championships in Barcelona, having endured the setback of Hoy ending his marvellous cycling career earlier in the year.
“We’re monitoring all the sports at this time, looking at where the athletes are in relation to their Commonwealth competitors. We know that will move up and down, and closer to the Games we’ll obviously get a better idea in terms of who is still in the frame,” said Doig when pressed on the latest projections for Scottish medals.
“We’ve got a number of athletes here today near the top of the Commonwealth rankings. Obviously next season is a difficult one to go through and judge for the athletics guys, because it’s going to be a very early-season competition but in sports like squash we get a better idea. They are now going out and playing [potential] competitors, especially the doubles events where we can actually monitor them in depth in terms of the main players they will be up against at Games time.
“Part of this is looking at the performances over the last summer. I’m talking about track and field, where we have named a lot of athletes today and the doubles squash guys but, in a number of the other sports, you are looking at who has been on the world stage and [assessing them according to] Commonwealth rankings.
“A good case in point is the World Swimming Championships. In terms of Commonwealth rankings our swimmers were doing well, there or thereabouts. Their selection event is actually next year and they have a kind of pressure event so it’s a slightly different time frame but where people are at the moment, or moving towards it, puts me in very good heart.”
The 27 names presented yesterday as Team Scotland trailblazers included all of Scotland’s most accomplished athletes with the exception of European 800 metres champion Lynsey Sharp, who has yet to qualify for Glasgow 2014 because of injury. The quota contains two 2010 medallists in Eilidh Child (400m hurdles silver) and Steph Twell (5,000m bronze), as well as top-ranked British marathon runners Susan Partridge and Derek Hawkins.
London Paralympic silver medallist Libby Clegg (T12 100m) was joined in the para-sport contingent by wheelchair racers Meggan Dawson-Farrell and Samantha Kinghorn.
Away from athletics, the first tranche of selected athletes comprised four squash players. They are Alan Clyne, who will compete in the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles, Frania Gillen-Buchert, who will also do the doubles double, and men’s duo Harry Leitch and Alex Clark.
“We’ll have one further announcement before the end of the year, and then March, April, May – and June will be the final selection,” added Doig, who is projecting a record-sized team numbering more than 250. We know that a number of sports will have some athletes who may meet the standard in a number of events, so you then go to them and their coaches and say ‘which ones are you going to choose?’ because there may be other athletes in the same events waiting for you to do that.
“We’re looking circa 250 to 270 and that will be the biggest team ever. Things can change next year but, if you look at that spread at the moment, we are in better shape, not only in athletics but across the board.”