WITH the deadline for Commonwealth Games selection fast approaching, this must be a stressful time for a lot of athletes who have still to achieve the qualifying times they need to be part of Team Scotland.
Thankfully, I have known since last September that I would be in the team – I was one of a big group, including others such as Eilidh Child, who were selected back in September.
I feel very fortunate to have been put in that position, because that early selection has allowed me to get down to training without worrying about arranging races in search of qualifying times. My coach and I have put a good training programme together and I’m very happy with the way things are going. I raced indoors in Glasgow at the start of the year, but I’ve yet to race outdoors. I’ve got a little bit more fine-tuning to do first, but the plan is for me to make my season debut in the next couple of weeks.
It will be a pretty low-key start, in front of nothing like the crowd that will be at Hampden for the Games. Competing in front of such a large crowd is one of the things I’m most looking forward to, as that has always been something I’ve enjoyed.. At the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, for example, there was a crowd of around 80,000, I think, and because there was a Chinese competitor in my race it sounded like every one of them was shouting at the top of their voice. It didn’t matter that they were all cheering on of my competitors – all that noise encouraged me too and played a part in my winning a silver medal.
That’s something to bear in mind when we talk about home advantage in Glasgow - the excitement generated can help other athletes too. But anyway, since then I’ve always felt at home in packed stadiums, like we had at the London Paralympics four years later, and it will be great to race at a full Hampden.
Being registered blind, I run with a guide, Mikail Huggins, whose health and fitness is obviously just as important as my own. His training has been going well, too, and he’s even looking forward to wearing a kilt now as part of Team Scotland. He’s from Birmingham, and, when we competed in Glasgow in January, he was told that every member of the team would be kitted out with a kilt for the Games. I’m not sure if he was entirely convinced at first that it was a good idea, but he’s embraced the whole idea now. As part of his education for becoming Scottish, I made him drink some Irn Bru the other day. He wasn’t sure at first, and kept asking me what it tasted like – but it’s almost impossible to put into words, so I just told him the only way to know was to try it for himself. So he did, and he quite liked it.
It’s only the 100 metres in my category that is on the schedule this time, whereas normally at a paralympic event I would compete in the 200 as well. Physically I’m so used to competing in both that just having the 100 won’t make things much easier – my workload in training will be exactly the same – but, mentally, it is quite nice to only concentrate on the one event for a change. In any case, the 100 is definitely my best event.
I’ll have a chance to compete in both later in the season at the IPC European Championships in Swansea – if I qualify, that is. But that’s for later in the season.
At present, the focus is purely on Glasgow. Everything is going well, and the atmosphere is building up nicely, with more and more competitors. The Games can’t come soon enough.
My final is on the first night of the athletics competition, so, hopefully, it will be a good way to start off and give the rest of the squad confidence. It can make a massive difference to team morale if you win medals in the first day or two, so I’m very aware that I have a responsibility to all my team-mates as well as to myself.
• Support SSE Home Nation ambassador @LibbyClegg and her team-mates ahead of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games by tweeting #GoScotland, and by doing so help fund the next generation of athletes in your community. Follow @ScottishHydro to keep up to date.