DCSIMG

Lee McConnell focused on season opener in Glasgow

From left: Stef Reid, Carmelita Jeter, Libby Clegg and Lee McConnell. Picture: SNS

From left: Stef Reid, Carmelita Jeter, Libby Clegg and Lee McConnell. Picture: SNS

  • by STUART BATHGATE
 

AS a new indoor athletics season gets under way today in Glasgow, it is tempting to think that we will see all the British competitors back in action in the city at the Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2014.

Tempting for the athletes, too, to look ahead to taking part in a major championships on home ground, and perhaps no-one is looking ahead to the event more than Glasgow’s own Lee McConnell.

But whatever her dreams of the future might be, McConnell is also a realist. She will compete in this afternoon’s British Athletics international at the new Emirates Arena and her plan at present is to take part in the world championships in Moscow later this year.

But next year? Much as she would love to take part in a fourth Commonwealth Games, McConnell will neither plan nor presume that far ahead. Like Sir Chris Hoy, she will only accept a place in the Scottish team strictly on merit.

“Speaking to other athletes who have ended their career, they’ve all just said that one day they’ve turned up at the track and found they didn’t want to be there,” the 34-year-old said yesterday. “At the moment I still really want to be there, but I don’t know when that light goes out.

“I don’t really want to put a date on my career. I just want to keep going as long as I can and as long as I enjoy it. So far I’ve bounced back, but you just don’t know, do you? You just don’t know what’s around the corner.

“[A home Games] certainly is a motivation, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to compete in Glasgow unless I was really going to run well. I wouldn’t want to go out there just to make up numbers and wave to the crowd. I would only want to do it if I thought I would be battling for a medal.

“I’ve won a medal in two out of the three Commonwealth Games that I’ve done, and I wouldn’t want to be in a different position, especially going into a home Games. I haven’t really committed to anything, to be honest. At the moment it’s taking each day as it comes.

“The next aim for me will be the world championships this year, then we’ll take it from there. But I’ve always said that as long as the body and the mind hold up, I’d love to be part of Glasgow.”

She will be part of it today, all right, when she moves down from her usual distance of 400m to compete in the 200. For a tall athlete such as McConnell, the tighter bends of indoor tracks are always difficult. But, having already trained several times in the new arena, she has found it more forgiving than the Kelvin Hall, the former venue for the event.

“It is a brilliant new stadium,” she continued. “I’m really looking forward to it and it is a really good facility. It’s a better track than the Kelvin Hall and I think we’ll see a lot better times than we would do in the Kelvin Hall.

“It’s always great to compete in front of a home crowd. I’ve moved down an event and a distance, so it’s going to be really tough. I’m not a very good indoor runner and I think all the girls have a quicker PB than me, so it’s going to be quite a challenge.

“After London, I’m really looking forward to competing in Glasgow. I’ve had a lot of support in Scotland, and I don’t often get the opportunity to come here and race in front of them. I’m hoping the home advantage will act in my favour.”

Besides her two Commonwealth medals, McConnell has also finished on the podium in the European and world championships. She should also have had an Olympic medal by now, having been part of the British relay team at the Athens Games in 2004 who were upgraded to bronze after Crystal Cox, one of the winning USA quartet, admitted to taking a banned substance.

While the authorities go through the laborious legal process of confirming the revised result, McConnell hopes that one day she will receive the medal, but is unsure how she will feel if and when she gets it.

“I think it’s in the IOC’s hands now, but one day hopefully I will see that medal. That’s the only medal I’m missing from the four major championships. But you’ve sort of lost that moment of standing on that podium – that’s such a big part of the package, and you’ve lost that.”

McConnell and fellow Scot Eilidh Child are in the unusual position of competing against Great Britain today, as they represent a Commonwealth select in a team competition which also includes the USA, Germany and Russia. Besides making its debut at the Emirates Arena after 21 years at the Kelvin Hall, the match also features Paralympic events for the first time. London 2012 medalists Stef Reid and Libby Clegg are among 30 Paralympic athletes who will take part in four events.

SIX TO WATCH AT THE EMIRATES

Carmelita Jeter

The second fastest woman of all time represents the USA over 60 metres as she begins a season which she hopes will culminate in the defence of her world 100m title in Moscow.

Perri Shakes-Drayton and Eilidh Child

The 400m hurdles rivals, usually GB team-mates, go head to head over the flat 400. Scotland’s Child represents the Commonwealth team, England’s Shakes-Drayton Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

Lynsey Sharp

Scotland’s Olympic semi-finalist, just back from warm-weather training in Kenya, represents the home team in the 800m.

Dai Greene and Andrew Osagie

400m hurdles world champion Greene takes on 800m specialist Osagie – over 600m. Can Greene last the longer distance or will Osagie’s endurance win the day?

• The British Athletics Glasgow International Match is live on BBC One Scotland between 1.30 and 4.30pm.

 

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