IT WAS a night when age didn’t matter. It was all about heart and pride and the roar of encouragement from the Saltire waving crowd as Scotland added a further three medals to their collection in the pool.
It is an impressive return from a swimming contingent which has shouldered a lot of expectation and risen to the challenge. Following on from the bronzes won by young Erraid Davies in the women’s para-sport 100m breaststroke and by Hannah Miley in the women’s 200m individual medley, the men’s 4x200m freestyle team’s silver – with Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne, Duncan Scott and Robbie Renwick – took the tally to 11 with another couple of nights of competition still to come.
It leaves them still in the hunt to try to surpass the judo squad’s input to the national tally. The Scottish judoka have been supreme but having overtaken the swimmers as the most successful squad in any individual games, the gauntlet has been thrown down and picked up.
Having made the finals of the men’s 50m breaststroke, the 200m gold medallist Ross Murdoch said that it was good for the team to have something extra to aim for.
“I didn’t realise there was some inter-sport competition going on. But I think once I mention this to the guys there will be more competition between Team Scotland. I think we still have a few swimmers still to come who are capable of winning medals. We have a massively strong team and everybody is swimming fantastically well. I wouldn’t write us off just yet.”
There is no chance of anyone doing that, not on the evidence of last night’s drama and achievements. It was a night where the highlights were to be found not on the top step of the podium but in the efforts made to secure a spot on the silver and bronze positions.
It was also a night when young and old combined to give the enthusiastic and boisterous Tollcross support plenty to shout about.
The youngest member of Team Scotland, Erraid Davies, became the youngest Commonwealth Games medallist ever when she won bronze on the fourth day of competition in the pool.
On a night where Australia again showed their might, the 13-year-old lass from Shetland wrestled that particular record from the Aussies. They had held the record thanks to Jenny Turrell who won gold at the 1974 Games. But she was just over two months older than Davies, who only turned 13 in February. That achievement was also in the pool, in the 400m freestyle. But in front of an ecstatic home crowd Davies bettered that in the women’s para-sport 100m breaststroke, coming in just behind New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe and Australian Madelaine Scott.
A cheerleader to those who have swum before her at these Games, she said she had never quite dreamed that she would follow them onto the medal platform. “I didn’t know what I’d be capable of, I just wanted to do my best and I’m really happy to get a PB. I didn’t dream about this moment but I knew it was a possibility,” she said through the giggles. “I didn’t know that [youngest ever medallist], that’s really good. I’m very proud and happy. I’m really happy. The medal ceremony was really good.”
It was an inspirational performance that earned her a standing ovation from the crowd and her fellow swimmers and it also boosted one of the swimmers at the other end of the age range, 24-year-old Miley.
“I was just wanting her to get into a medal position and I am so chuffed for her,” said the woman who has already successfully defended her 400m IM title and didn’t expect to add any more medals to the collection. “I went into my own race with a big grin on my face knowing she had done that. She is such a wee cutie and it is nice for her to come to her first Commonwealth Games and get a medal.”
But Miley doesn’t see the emergence of so many young, talented swimmers in the Scottish squad as a sign that she should step aside, not when she is performing as well as ever. “To be honest, I thought the 400 IM was my only shot and that was it. I am very surprised to get a bronze. As you can tell from the grin on my face, I’m happy with that. I’m almost as happy with that as I was with the gold in the 400. And the fourth place in the 200 breast stroke. It’s just been an amazing meet.
“It’s all about the race and getting stuck in. I thought I would maybe get fourth or fifth place so to go better than that and come away with some hardware is pretty special. Consider that, in Delhi, I only came away with one medal – and I was super proud of that. To come away with two is an added bonus. The rest of these swims, I’m not really targeting medals. I know I’m up against the best in the Commonwealth and, while I’m trying to get near them, I know that I won’t really be up there.
“I’m just taking every race as an opportunity to swim fast, get into finals and get PBs. That was my goal after day one. I’m in the best shape of my life, so I’m trying to take advantage of that. That shows with the times I’m getting. In the 200 IM, I’ve not been getting close to 2.10. I’ve been stuck on 2.12 forever, it seems, so I was even thinking about dropping it. To come away with a bronze medal shows that my form is all right.
“How will I top this? I’ve no idea. But it’s a huge indication that the work I’ve done is right on track. At 24 years of age, I’m still swimming PBs. A lot of people thought I was too old, I wouldn’t do it, I should be dropped and forgotten about. I might be small but I definitely don’t want to be forgotten about. That’s been a big motivating factor. Age is just a number. It’s about the heart and determination in the athlete. For me, I want to prove people wrong. It’s just a matter of how much you want it.
“Some of us in British swimming get told we are past it and our time at the top is finished. To be honest it is up to the athlete themselves to try and change that. Who knows how long I will go on for? Until I stop loving swimming. I’ve got Rio on my horizon and I try to take each block by two years. After that I will have to try and organise a bit of a life! But it is only over when I say it. When you are in the pool age doesn’t matter.”