“Everybody keeps talking about how old I am,” laughs Eilidh Doyle. 31 years and five days old to be exact. Yet despite more major medals than any Scottish athlete past or present and the full set of Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth gongs, the hurdler is insistent that there is no reason to begin planning a farewell. “I do still love it,” she says. “And my body is still letting me run fast. If that balance still stays, I’ll carry on.”
To the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she hints, and all paths in between, starting with today’s Muller Grand Prix in Glasgow before heading south to Birmingham for this week’s world indoor championships. And then off to Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games prior to another summer’s graft.
Her speed in winning the British 400m title last weekend suggests time and accomplishment has not dulled her hunger. But changes, she reveals, are afoot. Eight years after departing her then-base at Pitreavie and decamping for Bath, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist is planning a one-way return.
By the year’s end, Doyle, pictured, husband Brian and canine companion Ben will be settling back in Cumbernauld to be closer to the nieces and nephews who will get a rare close-up view of their illustrious aunt in action at the Emirates Arena this afternoon.
“We don’t really need to be in Bath any more,” she acknowledged. “The reason I went was because Malcolm Arnold was there and he’s now retired. We do have a flat there and we were going to try and sell it this year and move back. But with being in Australia for so long, and it being a busy year, we thought we’d get the season out of the way.”
The ecosystem has been put in place. Brian is now her coach but with Arnold, firmly retired, still able to provide a guiding hand. And, she says, “when I come back up to Scotland to train, there is always so much support in terms of the Institute of Sport, the coaching, the facilities. The people at Grangemouth are always so accommodating when I go there. And so when I move back, I can just ease into the swing of things.”
The Grand Prix will feature many of those bound for Birmingham. Mhairi Hendry, set for her maiden senior championship, meets Lynsey Sharp in the women’s 800m with Jake Wightman sharpening his 1500m speed by dropping down to the men’s 800m to face Kyle Langford.