Andrew Butchart is doing his best to get in with the in-laws. The Scottish athlete has enjoyed family time with Andy and Jamie Murray, thanks to his girlfriend, and the three Dunblane sporting stars have discussed the prospect of them all making it into the Great Britain team for this summer’s Rio Olympics.
Butchart is dating Caitlin Watson, the daughter of Andy and Jamie’s dad Willie Murray’s partner Sam, which means the new Scottish 5,000m record holder, has been privy to exclusive get-togethers, offering him an insight into what it takes to get to the top and given him an extra incentive to do his best to emulate that level of achievement.
“I know Andy and Jamie reasonably well through my girlfriend and they have been very supportive,” said Butchart. “They are always texting to say ‘well done’. There has been a lot of sporting talent through Dunblane so I guess there must be something in the water.”
While Jamie won the first grand slam of the year, in Australia, with doubles partner Bruno Soares, and rose to the top of the rankings, younger brother Andy, the two-time grand slam champion, is World No 2 and on the brink of yet another final, facing Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final of the French Open today.
A guest at Andy’s wedding, the distance runner, who was a late convert to athletics after recognising that his footballing skills were more limited, says he spoke to the famous tennis brothers at that time but did not feel like he was on a similar sporting plane.
“Even then I wasn’t that good a runner,” he said. “I wasn’t in this position. But we spent Christmas together and we spoke again then, and all said there could be three of us at the Olympics from that one family, so that is decent!”
But becoming an Olympic champion or triumphing in grand slams does not come about without a winning mentality and a strident dose of competitiveness. As Butchart discovered over the festive period.
“It is a good family but we did a quiz and I was the quizmaster. I made a few mistakes and Andy definitely let me know about them! I didn’t feel that good. One of them was what was the biggest county in the UK? And he got it right by saying Yorkshire. But as you drive through Northumberland it says that it is the biggest so I put that down as the answer. I had to text to say ‘you were right about that’. I think he was quite annoyed!”
But the banter is good-natured and Butchart admires that desire to come out on top. Having gained the qualifying times for Rio, the 24-year-old, who trains at Stirling University, is favourite to join Mo Farah as the GB representatives over 5000m. Currently posting better times than all other GB runners over that distance, he still has to seal the deal with a dominant run in the British Championships, in Birmingham, at the end of this month.
But, for him the dream of Olympic gold remains just that, which is why he has not asked for a peek at the gold medal won by Andy at the 2012 Games.
w “I don’t want to see it, I am so jealous,” he said. “Andy has done so many things in his life and achieved so much and I am pretty sure him and Jamie will come home with the gold this year, they are both playing such good tennis. Andy is playing just now and hopefully keeps winning!”
But like Murray, Butchart was initially bewitched by football before realising his chances of making it to elite level would be better in another sport.
“I am not the type of person who woke up when I was six years old and said I want to be at the Olympic Games. I wanted to win the FA Cup probably or the Scottish Cup. So I can’t really say it has always been my dream, but since I started in athletics that has always been my main target.
“I guess like most kids I belonged to football. But I realised I wasn’t any good at football and at 16,17 I moved to athletics and didn’t look back. I was football crazy, I didn’t really watch athletics, I hadn’t even heard of Haile Gebreselassie.” At that time it was all about Ally McCoist. But an invitation to his local athletics club changed that.
“When I was at high school I ran the cross countries and I was winning them,” he recalled. “I got an envelope telling me to come to Central Athletics Club and the guy I guess I looked up to was Alister Hay.He ran at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and I was like ‘wow, he’s fast, that’s cool’.
“The past couple of years I have come through pretty strong, I think. I feel like it has been breakthrough years for the last however many number of years, I am just hoping they don’t stop. To be at at the Olympics in Rio would just be incredible.”