For someone who strives fiercely to be first across the finish line, Eilidh Doyle should feel at home when she steps out as the public face of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games campaign on the Gold Coast tomorrow.
The 31-year-old track-and-field athlete will become the first woman to carry the Saltire at a Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
The honour of being named the country’s flag bearer has come in what will be the first opening ceremony she has attended.
The 400m hurdler will also enjoy the privilege of being the first athlete to walk into Carrara Stadium, leading a procession of more than 6,600 competitors from 70 participating nations.
As the previous host nation before Australia, Scotland is the first team marching in the traditional procession for the XXI Commonwealth Games.
Doyle – twice a Games silver medallist – described the honour as “surreal”.
As Scotland’s most decorated track-and-field athlete, Doyle has some experience after captaining the Great Britain athletics team at last year’s World Championships in London.
“When you’re growing up and start doing athletics, you want medals and you want times and you want to go to championships,” she said. “You forget about these things you can do along the way.
“Last year getting voted to be team captain was huge and this is on a par with that. When I’m long retired these, will be the things I look back on and will be the highlights. “That’s the biggest honour you can get, that people value and appreciate you.”
Just as David Beckham transported the London 2012 Olympic torch along The Thames, Doyle wafted the Saltire in the coastal breeze on Surfers Paradise yesterday from a dingy across a 200m lagoon.
She was escorted by Australian lifeguards at Surfers Paradise after being named as her country’s flag bearer.
“I was more worried about staying in the boat and not falling in the water because there were lots of phones out and a lot of cameras,” Doyle joked.
“I used to swim before I did athletics. If I’d have fallen in I would’ve been OK, but I don’t think my pride would’ve been.
“It was really cool to get that entrance into it and a lovely welcome.”
Doyle has big shoes to fill. Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was chosen as team flag bearer for the Glasgow Games in 2014.
She was selected from a shortlist including shooter Jennifer McIntosh and lawn bowls pair Alex Marshall and Paul Foster. The three athletes will be invited to walk out immediately behind Doyle as deputy flag bearers.
Doyle, from Perth, said to be chosen by her peers as flag bearer “means the world”.
She confirmed the calf injury that prevented her from running the 4x400m relay at last month’s world indoor championships in Birmingham is all but healed. The experienced runner will look now for a third medal at her third successive Games, but also plans to be a valuable mentor within the Village for the Scots squad, even if – unlike in London – there is no rallying speech to be made.
“I would say just to savour it,” Doyle said of the experience.
“There is something different about the Commonwealth Games. They call them the Friendly Games and it is a different atmosphere.”