A HURDLES specialist she may remain but Eilidh Child is no longer a one-trick pony. Increasingly, she more resembles a thoroughbred on the flat
The 25-year-old seized possession of the Scottish indoor 400 metres record last night at the UK Championships in Sheffield, consigning Sinead Dudgeon’s mark from 2001 to history. It was only the semi-final. There may be more in reserve.
More assertive at the behest of her wise old coach Malcolm Arnold, Child has used the disappointment of missing out on an Olympic final as a spur for self-betterment.
Already quickest in the heats, she surged into this afternoon’s final at the English Institute of Sport with a time of 52.06 seconds. A top two finish would confirm her place in the British team at next month’s European Championships in Gothenburg but it is the prospect of a first UK title which will drive her on.
“I’ve had too many silvers,” she reflected. “It’s going to be a tough race again but I think I can go a bit quicker and, if I can break this record again, it would be really nice.”
Defending champion Shana Cox, as well as fellow Scot Gemma Nicol, will be among those ready to offer a challenge. However the new, improved Child will no longer let others set the pace.
“That’s how you have to run it,” she added. “Hopefully I’ll see the difference when I go out to the hurdles and just have that mindset of being aggressive and going out hard, knowing I’m not going to die.”
There was a first UK indoor crown for David Bishop in the 3000m but the Scotland international’s time of 8:06.98 was not enough to earn a ticket to Sweden.
“I’d like to think I’m in sub-7:50 shape so I’ve just got to get it done,” he said. “I think there are three spots for Gothenburg and I’ve won the trials so, if I get the time, I’ll go.”
Bishop has just eight days before the squad is selected to discover untapped reserves within.
For Guy Learmonth and Laura Muir, both with qualifying times already secured, the process is crystal clear. Learmonth breezed into this afternoon’s 800m final and can surely clinch a first trip to a major championship.
“I’m confident in my running,” said the 20-year-old Borderer. “And I’ll be the same in the final. I have the Europeans as my goal and I want to be on that plane to Sweden.”
Muir, too. The 19-year-old Glasgow University student heads the UK 1500m rankings and confirmed her position with the fastest semi-final run.
“I felt really good,” she said. “But this is probably the most pressure I’ve been under.”
In what is a weak field in the final, she will start as favourite. She added: “It would be my first UK title but I’ll just have to sit in and see what happens. As long as I’m in the top two I’ll be happy.”
Holly Bleasdale chased history in the pole vault, raising the bar to 4.90 metres, a mark bested only by Yelena Isinbayeva. The 21-year-old from Preston came up short but her winning mark of 4.77m was sufficient to propel her to the top of the world rankings. And, with the omnipotent Russian giving Gothenburg a miss, a first major title is within her reach.
“I’m in a really good place,” said Bleasdale.
“Training is going well and everything seems to be slotting into place so I just need to fine tune.”
There was a signal of intent too from Asha Philip, who won in the 60m in 7.15 seconds, the third-fastest ever time by a British woman.
Allan Scott, an Olympian in 2008, was edged into second in the 60m hurdles by Gianni Frankis.
Jayne Nisbet claimed bronze in the high jump with a leap of 1.78m in her first competition since sustaining an ankle injury in last year’s Olympic trials.
The Scot was sidelined for the remainder of the summer, opting for patient rehabilitation rather than a speedy return. She was bested by long-time rival Emma Perkins, whose 1.81m edged out Morgan Lake into second, with Nisbet a notch behind but with more, she believes, in reserve.
“I’m still disappointed I didn’t get higher,” she said Nisbet. “I’ve not felt that good in such a long time. But to come away with a medal with the highest season opener I’ve ever done is a big positive.”
Edinburgh sprint prospect Tom Holligan believe he can make a major breakthrough this season, having soaked up the insights of his would-be rivals. The 18-year-old, who competes today in the 200m, feels better equipped to start making his mark on a wider stage after last year’s world junior championships.
“I learnt so much from that, just being around so many good athletes, seeing how they prepare and what their approach is to sprinting,” he said. “I really want to go out now and make sure I’m at the European juniors.”