Eilidh Child no overnight success, says father

Eilidh Child won a relay gold and individual silver medal. Picture: AFP
Eilidh Child won a relay gold and individual silver medal. Picture: AFP
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EILIDH Child may appear to be an overnight sensation to some following her European Indoor Championships relay gold medal in the 400 metres and her silver medal behind GB team-mate Perri Shakes-Drayton in the individual 400, but the 26-year-old Perth runner’s father Ronnie has revealed the years of hard work that his daughter has put in to compete at the top.

“It may look like I suppose to some people who don’t know much about her that she has just emerged at the top and certainly the improvement in her times in recent weeks and months have exceeded expectations,” said Ronnie in a blog for Scottishathletic. “There are years and years of hard work that were put in there – make no mistake about that. But, as a father, it definitely feels that every minute we put in taking her to sessions, every penny we spent on petrol and all that parental effort was worth it. Absolutely.”

Ronnie, a policeman in Kinross, has seen his daughter initially balance her studies and her job as a teacher with training, and believes that she has benefitted from her move to Bath and being surrounded by some of the best coaches in the world.

“Eilidh was teaching and she had to juggle a job with training. I think sometimes people do forget a number of top Scottish athletes are not full-time professionals. We were delighted, though, when the chance to move to Bath and work with Malcolm Arnold came up. If Malcolm isn’t the best in the world then he must be very close when you look at the record and the people he has worked with,” added Child snr. “Eilidh is staying with a family in Bath and is almost part of that family now. And the training group is good – they all get on very well – with top male and female athletes. It is helping her to be the best she can be and as a father that’s all you can ask of your daughter.”

Stephen Maguire, director of coaching with Sottishathletics, also hailed Child’s achievements at the weekend. “To medal at any major championships is a magnificent achievement so congratulations to Eilidh on her efforts in Sweden,” said Maguire. “She started out on an indoor season with a series of targets and things to work on, and her speed over the flat 400m has developed over the past couple of months.

‘She has set another Scottish indoor record with a new PB and done so in the final – so that fits well with the idea that athletes should aim to ‘perform on the day’ in major competition.”

Meanwhile, UK Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson believes that double European Indoor champion Shakes-Drayton should not consider a permanent switch of events – unless she under-performs at this year’s World Championships.

Hurdles specialist Shakes-Drayton won gold over 400 metres in Gothenburg, setting the second fastest time in the world this year, before anchoring the 4x400m relay team to another gold alongside Child seven hours later. The 24-year-old also won relay gold at the World Indoors in Istanbul in 2012, but failed to reach the hurdles final at either the London Olympics or 2011 World Championships in Daegu. Speaking about her performance in Sweden, where Britain won eight medals, Eriksson said: “Fantastic, absolutely fantastic and I think it’s a good start for her. I don’t think you have seen the best of her, there is more to come.

“Perri and her coach know where they are going with all of this. I know they have a good plan and it’s a good couple that works well together and her performance is getting better and better. I don’t think she has any plan of giving up hurdles. We will see how it goes.”

Asked if switching to the flat would be an option if Shakes-Drayton underperformed in Moscow, Eriksson added: “Maybe that’s the time to take that discussion up, but I don’t know how her preparation was in previous years.

“I know she was injured prior to the Olympics which affected the outcome. Seeing her at Crystal Palace (where she set a personal best shortly before the Olympics) she did really well, so if everything had gone to plan she probably would have performed at the same level there.”

One of Britain’s rare flops at the indoor championships, the Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz, will begin work immediately with renowned sports psychologist Steve Peters. Grabarz was one of the favourites for the high jump in Gothenburg but could only finish sixth after three failures at 2.27 metres.

The 25-year-old, who was only 23rd in qualifying in Paris two years ago before transforming his attitude and fortunes after losing his lottery funding and receiving a dressing-down from coach Fuzz Ahmed, admitted he had failed to handle the pressure of his new-found status in Sweden, where his mannerisms were compared to former Olympic champion Stefan Holm.

Eriksson has backed Grabarz to bounce back and said: “That was tough for him. He wanted to do really well and it’s easy to be too tense when you are trying too hard.”