During the recent renaissance in Scottish athletics, there has been one glaring omission – the lack of a top-quality sprinter.
It has been some time since the country which produced the likes of Allan Wells, Cameron Sharp and Elliot Bunney has had representation at the top level in the shortest distances of the sport, and even rarer on the female side, but both have been dramatically rectified by the explosive emergence of Beth Dobbin.
The 24-year-old broke Sandra Whittaker’s 200 metres record, which had stood since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when she ran 22.84 for Edinburgh AC in a Women’s League match at Eton at the start of June and then, a week later, shaved a further hundredth of a second off that at the Stockholm Diamond League meeting.
It has Dobbin on the verge of selection for the Great Britain team at August’s European Championships in Berlin – months after being left fuming by failure to be picked by Scotland for the Commonwealth Games.
That snub has fuelled Dobbin this season and, on the back of those two record-breaking runs, she is now looking to seal her place at this weekend’s British Championships in Birmingham, which double up as the GB trials.
“The nerves are kicking in but there’s a lot of excitement too and my recent form means I have to be confident,” Dobbin told The Scotsman from her Loughborough training base as she puts the finishing touches to her preparations for the Alexander Stadium, where she will compete tomorrow in heats and, all going to plan, the final.
Dobbin’s exploits have secured her the qualifying time and a top-two finish in Birmingham will book her spot in the German capital but, with already-qualified star Dina Asher-Smith not competing, the alluring prospect of becoming British champion has opened up.
“When you’re competing against Dina it’s always different because she is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of us and it kind of changes the dynamic of the race,” said Dobbin. “With Dina not running it makes it a true close contest and fingers crossed I can deliver my best on the day.”
If she can, it will be just reward for an athlete who has shown true grit and determination, with that Commonwealth Games disappointment the latest twist in what has been a difficult road to where she now finds herself.
The biggest test was being afflicted by serious epilepsy at the age of 13, including one particularly severe seizure which caused serious physical after-effects for a spell. The medication led to fatigue which required her to sleep 14 hours a day and presented obvious barriers to her budding athletics career.
“It was a tough time but things have got a lot better,” explained Dobbin. “I have been seizure free for a while now and have been able to come off the medication.
“I got a lot of good advice from [Wales’ former world 400m hurdles champions and London 2012 athletics captain] Dai Greene, who also has epilepsy. The key is to try to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible.”
Dobbin is the daughter of former Celtic and Motherwell footballer Jim Dobbin, and grew up in Yorkshire after her father moved to Doncaster Rovers in the early 1980s.
It was runs with her Dunfermline-born dad which sparked her love for athletics and Dobbin has been raised with a strong work ethic which has been needed as she has forged her athletics path without funding, working seven-day weeks in two jobs at Loughborough University to allow her the time off in the athletics season.
“My dad came down to Doncaster with another Scottish player [ex-Celtic and Partick Thistle] John Buckley, my Uncle John I call him, and he got me a job selling the match programmes when I was 13. I’ve always been a grafter,” said Dobbin.
She may speak with a broad Yorkshire accent but is fiercely proud of her Scottishness and said that her father, who played for his country at Under-18 level, was in tears when she phoned him with the news that she now held the national 200m record.
“My dad always brought us up Scottish. We weren’t allowed to support England at football, ‘they’re rubbish, Scotland’s your team’ he’d tell us’,” she said with a laugh. “My brother, who is 21, actually pretends he was born in Scotland. My mum is English and is like ‘eh I think I would remember if that was the case’. My grandparents are in Dunfermline and we were always up in Scotland on holidays. I’ve seen a lot more of Scotland than I have of England.”
That Scottish pride led her to choose Edinburgh AC as her club and she will proudly wear the vest in Birmingham this weekend. Last year, Scots won a sensational 18 medals over the two days and went on to have a record-breaking representation of 16 in the GB team for the London world championships. It will be tough to repeat that extraordinary number but it is hoped that Scottish podium places should get into double figures.