Leader comment: We must grasp the opportunity from Commonwealth Games inspiration

The achievements of Eilish McColgan are an inspiration wrapped in a fairytale.

Medal winner Eilish McColgan with mum Liz
Medal winner Eilish McColgan with mum Liz

A full 36 years after her mother Liz first won Commonwealth gold in Edinburgh, Eilish repeated the same feat at Birmingham 2022. The images of mother and daughter embracing after the race will have brought a tear to many an eye.

Our elite athletes – and in particular Scottish middle-distance running – is certainly enjoying a golden period which we should all celebrate as Scotland surges up the medal table. But what of what happens next? Attention always turns to legacy after major sporting events and ensuring that achievement can be a catalyst to change is crucial. How do we inspire the next generation of Elish McColgans?

At the end of a week which also saw the incredible success of England’s Lionesses in the women’s Euros, the opportunity is there to be grasped.

McColgan herself spoke earlier this year over her concern about the sheer number of promising young female athletes who quit sport in their teens. Not everyone has a Liz McColgan or Judy Murray in the background to ensure they reach their potential.

“Every time I go home to Dundee I'm reminded of the great facilities we have now, and how much of a difference that makes for young athletes looking to progress, but with that comes increased cost or participation and competition, which can put people off,” she said.

“Once you start to factor-in travelling to competitions, accommodation and so on, I guess I've just become very aware that for some families it's virtually impossible to do all that.”

Along with her partner, English middle-distance runner Michael Rimmer, she has set up a non-profit body, Giving Back to Track, to encourage continued participation.

It is an admirable move from a true champion, but one which must spark a joined-up national approach to improve health, access to sporting facilities and in turn mental wellbeing for every child, no matter where they are in the country.

The pandemic had the effect of stalling much good work which was already underway as classes were cancelled and sporting facilities locked up. Some may not have reopened or have been forced to close again amid the cost of living crisis.

Too often sport is overlooked, under-valued and the first area to face cuts when budgets are tight. Eilish has shown a generation what is possible. We need to help them get there.