Glasgow 2014: Hard work starts for Team Scotland

Team Scotland athletes at Glasgow Green. Picture: Robert Perry
Team Scotland athletes at Glasgow Green. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE 23 athletes named this week as Team Scotland trailblazers for the 2014 Commonwealth Games have been warned by the country’s top coach that their selection is not a “huge cause for celebration”, only a motivational tool for harder work over the winter.

Stephen Maguire, director of coaching at Scottish Athletics, admitted it was a positive step to have so many of his athletes guaranteed a place in the home team 300 days out from the Games. But his message to them was firm and clear: Don’t take your foot off the pedal.

“We have a number of athletes in track, field and marathon who have reached the required standards and that’s good for them and for the sport,” said Maguire. “But I want to make it clear while being named at this stage is a good acknowledgement of achievements over the past few months and performances from the 2013 season, I actually don’t see it as any huge cause for celebration. In fact, I view it all as more important in the planning process for Hampden next summer rather than anything else.”

It was Irishman Maguire who made the nominations to Commonwealth Games Scotland that led to 23 names being inked into the fabric of the 2014 team on Wednesday. The participation of a women’s 4x400 metres team has also been confirmed, leaving the 19-strong team that represented Scotland in Delhi in 2010 far in the shade.

“There is an advantage to be had in giving athletes and, very importantly, coaches a ‘heads-up’ that they will be on the team all being well in terms of fitness and competitive edge into 2014,” Maguire said. “There should be an advantage both physically, in terms of getting down to hard work over the vital winter training period, and also mentally with a view to getting minds on the job for Glasgow 2014.

‘I will be in charge of the track and field team next summer… and, initially, I had thought the pre-selections would be limited to those we regard as really being in the medal zone for the Commonwealth Games. I have changed that view over the course of the season with a number of good performances and in getting to know our athletes and coaches better.

“Time is short at the start of the 2014 season to the 8 June cut-off point for the Team Scotland announcement, so it wasn’t advisable to keep more people hanging on. It wasn’t realistic to leave the bulk of the slots open. This way, we are giving a number who have reached the standards asked of them an early word and a clear signal that they can focus all their efforts and attention on Glasgow next summer. And they can start that work right now.

“The athletes named are good enough to represent Scotland at a Commonwealth Games and I am delighted for each and every one of them. But I don’t want anyone thinking they can put their feet up now they know they are in. If they are thinking, ‘Great, now I get to wear the Scotland tracksuit at Hampden’, then while you want people to be proud, it should be about so much more than that.”

More than 250 Scots will parade around Celtic Park next July at the opening ceremony that officially introduces Team Scotland to their audience. The Hampden-bound athletes will not shoulder expectations on their own but there will be more Scots on show in track and field than any other sport, and Maguire believes the team is a long way from being complete.

“It is worth noting also that the door isn’t closed,” he added in his latest blog on the Scottish Athletics website. “I don’t mind naming a few names – we’ve people like Freya Ross, Andrew Lemoncello and Lynsey Sharp yet to prove they will be there next summer. For pregnant Lee McConnell, not too far from her due date in early November, she probably has the most amazing experience of her life ahead of her in becoming a mother. Understandably, that’s her first priority. So, a lot can happen in ten months and probably will happen. Most of all what I want to see happening is serious training by athletes and sensible planning by coaches.”