New surname, new approach, old self. For much of 2015, Eilidh Doyle – formerly Eilidh Child – was more than a few steps adrift of her rivals, the complex marriage of speed and technique so often feeling estranged when it mattered most.
Wed last autumn, the European champion indicated that this might be a summer to remember as she powered to victory last night in the 400 metres hurdles at the opening Diamond League stop in Doha.
The time of 54.53 seconds was her best-ever seasonal debut, enough to take top spot in the early world rankings. The margin was impressive, with the Scot pulling over a second clear of Burundi’s Kemi Adekoya, with her frequent nemesis Kaliese Spencer third and in-form compatriot Meghan Beesley sixth.
“I was very happy with the race,” Doyle said. “My training worked very well although my reaction was a bit slow at the start. Obviously my focus is on Rio. I will just have to try harder and harder. I’ll hopefully build on it in Rome, Birmingham and then the Olympic trials.”
Eilish McColgan’s promising comeback from injury continued with a second personal best in six days as she ended tenth in the 3,000m in 8:43.27 as Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana surged clear of the field.
The Dundonian, who will now intensify her preparation for trials under the eye of her Doha-based coach Liz McColgan-Nuttall, senses the Olympics are again a realistic goal. “The last three weeks of training have pushed me on to believe I could qualify,” she said.
Elsewhere, South Africa’s Caster Semenya took her first Diamond League win since 2011 in the 800m, with British prospect Shelayna Oskan-Clarke fifth, while Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz came fourth in the high jump after surviving two early failures.
l Jessica Ennis-Hill has suffered a setback in her build-up to the Rio Olympics when she was forced to withdraw from next month’s prestigious Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, Austria. The 30-year-old has not sufficiently recovered from a recurrence of her long-standing Achilles problem which led to her withdrawal from the World Indoor Championships in Portland in March.
Ennis-Hill had been hoping to use the Gotzis event – one of the most important on the heptathlon calendar – as a means of assessing her own form and that of her rivals in the run-up to Rio.