Leader comment: Golden opportunity to inspire our young to exercise

Scotland's Neah Evans during the medal ceremony of the women's cycling 10km scratch. Picture: AFP PHOTO / Patrick HAMILTONPATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images
Scotland's Neah Evans during the medal ceremony of the women's cycling 10km scratch. Picture: AFP PHOTO / Patrick HAMILTONPATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images
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Scots’ Commonwealth Games medal successes can go a long way in encouraging children to exercise more.

IT’S not always easy being a Scottish sport enthusiast. More often than not our national representatives are perfectly designed for the roles of plucky, but doomed, underdogs.

So when Scots start winning, the pleasure is all the greater. Scottish athletes are currently cutting a swathe through the competition at the Commonwealth games, with some fantastic performances.

Yesterday, Duncan Scott left he competition in his wake, taking swimming gold in the 100 metres freestyle, while Mark Stewart brought cycling events at the velodrome to a thrilling conclusion with a victory in the points race.

There was another gold, this time in bowls, and bronzes in gymnastics and hammer throwing as day four of the games turned into something of a super Sunday for Scotland.

Recent years have seen some Scots break through to dominate their sports. Cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and tennis star Sir Andy Murray are just two who’ve helped end Scotland’s reputation as perpetual losers.

And, just as Sirs Chris and Andy inspired others who followed in their footsteps, those making their mark in Australia are examples of how talent and hard work can combine to create stunning success.

The victories of Scots athletes Down Under are not simply individual pleasures to be savoured, they are an example to a nation that all too often makes headlines because of the poor health of its people.

While Scotland spent decades developing a reputation as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, fat-devouring nation, other countries produced a string of sporting heroes. But, just maybe, Scotland is starting to shape up. We should certainly proceed as if this is so.

The late Margo MacDonald MSP was a doughty campaigner for greater physical education in schools. She believed that an appetite for exercise acquired in childhood would last a – much prolonged – lifetime. We would rather like to see a current MSP take up this particular cause.

Scots may be drinking and smoking less than we once did but obesity rates continue to rise. The answer surely lies – in part, at least – in encouraging children to exercise more. The stories of Duncan Scott and Mark Stewart (and many others) should be told in classrooms across Scotland and youngsters who feel inspired by them should be able to count on the resources and support they need to follow their own dreams.