I CAN’T remember when we went into the world championships with so much to look forward to from a Scottish point of view.
Having seven Scots in the Great Britain team is a sign of how far we have come over the last few years, because it’s not long ago that our representation was closer to zero.
We should be realistic and not necessarily expect any of the seven to come home with a medal, but I think we are justified to hope for two things. First, that everyone builds on the successes they have already achieved this season, and second, that they come back with the experience of competing at a major championships that will stand them in good stead for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Eilidh Child, for example, has already had an absolutely fantastic season, with personal bests both in her main event, the 400-metres hurdles, and in the flat 400. She has now established herself as a consistently high-level performer at international level, so it will be difficult for her to better what she has done.
Eilidh should be able to go into the championships and enjoy herself, knowing she is in the best shape of her life. Some people have fixated on her domestic rivalry with Perri Shakes-Drayton this season, but Eilidh has rightly said she will simply concentrate on running her own race as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If that means she beats Perri, so be it. If not, Perri is a world-class athlete too, with a faster PB, so it’s no disgrace to finish behind her.
Eilish McColgan has also had a successful season, with the highlight so far being her win in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Sainsbury’s British Championships for the second year running. She knows that the competition at the world championships is of an altogether higher level from the domestic opposition she faces, and I think her initial goal will be to make the final.
Eilish has had a few niggling injuries this season, but has managed them well to get to Moscow. Hopefully she will be able to relax and give it everything she’s got.
Susan Partridge is in a similar position in the marathon, for which she qualified back in April. It’s one thing to be selected for the British team thanks to a good performance at the Virgin London Marathon, but quite another to be truly competitive at world level.
She too will have to focus on putting in the best possible individual performance, then finding out how high up the field that takes her. The latter stages of the race will be at the hottest time of day, and, although Susan has trained in Boulder and in Spain, those last few miles could still be a real ordeal.
Laura Muir is another athlete who has already had a great season. She has been selected for the 800m this time, but it could be some years before we find out what her best distance is – if, indeed, she settles on a single distance, because she’s extremely versatile.
Moscow is a great chance for her to show everyone else in Britain, myself included, what she can do over 800m. Hopefully, she will get through the heats and have at least two races, and, if the conditions are right, she could come close to breaking two minutes.
Kirsten McAslan has also come on exceptionally well this year and has already represented Great Britain in the Gateshead international meeting. She is in the 4x400m relay squad, so is not guaranteed a run, but simply being part of a close-knit, supportive group is an ideal situation for anyone’s first major championships.
It will be an excellent experience for Kirsten to be at this level, and it should also be really helpful to Scotland too as we look forward to Glasgow 2014. Gemma Nicol has also run a personal best this season, and, as I mentioned, Eilidh keeps getting better on the flat as well, so our 4x400 team is beginning to look extremely competitive.
Jamie Bowie is in the same position as Kirsten – a member of the 4x400 relay squad and therefore not certain to be given even a single run. I’m absolutely delighted he was picked for the team, because he’s been in great shape this season and fully merited his selection with a series of PBs.
Jamie trains with Gemma and it’s great to see them both doing so well. I hope he gets a run in the first round at least, but, even if he doesn’t, he will gain so much from the experience.
Chris O’Hare is another athlete who has done everything right this year, and he won the 1,500m in some style at the British Championships. Eilish and I were in the same Scotland team as him a few years back at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India, and I know how driven he is. This level is an enormous step up for him, but he fully deserves the chance to show what he can do, and it would be great to see him progressing through a couple of rounds.
It would have been great if I could have made it eight Scots in the team, but injury has prevented me from competing almost since the start of the season. It’s always a frustrating time for any athlete, but one real consolation for me has been the backing of my sponsors, Virgin Money and Dell UK. They’ve been wholly supportive of my recovery programme, and never put any pressure on me to hurry back to the track.
I’m nearly there now, and my aim over the next few weeks is first to make absolutely certain that the injury is completely gone, and then to ensure I’m in the best possible state for the start of winter training. For the Scots who are in Moscow and those of us who are not, this winter will be extremely important: what we do between September and March will play a big part in determining how well we do at Hampden next summer.