Records, personal bests and great atmosphere at the Emirates Arena augur well for this summer’s Commonwealth Games
THERE were several Scottish records and a host of personal bests from home athletes yesterday. But, for all the individual excellence, what really impressed, as we look ahead to the Commonwealth Games, was the ability of the Scotland team as a whole to rise to the occasion against some of the best athletes in the world.
In stark black and white, the result of the Sainsbury’s British Athletics Glasgow International Match may not look too encouraging. It was a four-team competition, and Scotland were fourth, with 40 points to a Commonwealth Select’s 62 points, Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s 59 and the United States’ 53.
Yet realistically, when it comes to Hampden in the summer, we cannot expect Scotland to compete for strength in depth against the greatest track-and-field countries in the Commonwealth. Stephen Maguire, Scottish Athletics’ director of coaching, has set a target of two to five medals for his squad, and he knows the upper limit will only be approached if nearly every circumstance is favourable. What we should expect, as a matter of course, is that every Scottish athlete will give of their utmost.
We got that yesterday. And what we can expect, on the evidence of a capacity 5,000 attendance here, is a raucous home crowd that will inspire their favourites to new heights.
Team captain Eilidh Child provided some inspiration too. The hurdles specialist competed gamely in the flat 400 metres, then was back on the track a couple of hours later to run the first leg of the 4x400 relay in which a Scottish record of 3min 35.27sec was set.
The 26-year-old jokingly complained afterwards about being labelled a veteran in one preview last week, but that mistake is understandable, for Child is now one of the most mature and reliable competitors in Great Britain. And, as she said after the meeting, she is now far from being the only member of the Scottish squad to display that strength of character on the track.
“It’s been really good – I’m so proud,” Child said. “I watched Laura Muir’s race from the stand – she’s a little girl from Kinross just like me, and she’s gone out there and shown no fear.
“The boys as well, the likes of Guy Learmonth and Chris O’Hare, they stepped out on to the track and delivered. There were some really good times, and personal bests from people like Jamie Bowie. I’m so proud of everybody.”
Bowie started this season as he left off last season, with another PB, 46.65 seconds, which put him on the brink of qualifying for the world indoor championships. In the last race of the day he also helped the relay quartet to a national record of 3:09.84sec.
“I knew I was in good shape,” he said after his third place behind the Commonwealth’s Chris Brown and Britain’s Nigel Levine and his team’s third behind Great Britain and the Commonwealth. “It was hard at the end trying to hold on, but a big PB so I’m really happy with that.”
Learmonth was the outsider in a 600m race that was reduced to three men by the withdrawal of the USA’s Bershawn Jackson, but he finished strongly to overtake Andrew Osagie of GB and the Commonwealth’s Jeremiah Mutai and finish in a national record of 1:16.48.
Learmonth had the strength to win in a dip for the line after the Kenyan had lost control and barged into him some 30m out.
“I could see his shoulders going a wee bit,” he said.
“I managed to get round the outside, which kind of lost a few tenths. I could have gone quicker, definitely, but I’m glad with the win.
“I thrive on big races. I know if I get the opportunities I can deliver. This is a massive confidence boost for me.
“I know I can do it, I know I’ve got the talent to do it and, hopefully, that will just be a small taste of what’s to come in Glasgow in a few months’ time. It’s only January and that was a big national record. I’ll have to chat to my coach and assess what happens from here.”
O’Hare, one of seven Scots in the British team at last year’s IAAF World Championships, again showed his racing ability and intelligence to take maximum points in the 1,500m. He won in 3:48.62 in a thrilling battle for the line, crossing just three-hundredths of a second ahead of the Commonwealth’s James Magut, who was a further four-hundredths clear of Britain’s Charlie Grice.
“It was tough,” O’Hare said. “I like to think of myself as an aggressive racer and leave everything on the track. It’s pretty safe to say that I did that today. I thought I’d been pipped at the end but my sprinter’s dip practices have obviously paid off.”
Muir took the 800m with more to spare, finishing almost a full second ahead of the USA’s Chanelle Price to set a national record of 2:00.94. The 20-year-old was a revelation last year and appears sure to keep up the progress throughout 2014.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “I knew training was going well but I’m really surprised by that. My PB indoors before was 2.08 or something. There’s quite a bit to come as well. It’s early in the year.”
Libby Clegg had gone into the T11/12/13 60m expecting to set a personal best – in her only previous outing over the distance, here a year ago, the sprinter, who is registered blind, had to run without her guide Mikail Huggins after he strained a hamstring. This time there were no such upsets and Clegg, pictured left, clocked 7.97 for a comfortable win.
In the high jump, David Smith set a personal best of 2m 24cm, beating his fellow Scot Allan Smith by four centimetres. David, competing for the Commonwealth, was second, ahead of Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz on countback.
The first Scottish winner of the afternoon was Stef Reid in the T44 long jump, while other notable home performances included a third place for Josephine Moultrie in the 1,500m ahead of the experienced Jemma Simpson of Great Britain.