WHILE many entrants at the Commonwealth Trials in Glasgow were dreaming of competing in Melbourne next March, one of Scottish athletics' biggest names chose the occasion to announce his retirement. The Games may be only seven months away, but not close enough to dissuade Ian Mackie from calling it a day.
The Pitreavie sprinter won his semi-final of the 200m yesterday, then immediately declared he was an ex-athlete, and would not even take part in the final.
"I decided just to run in the heats because I wanted one last race in front of my family and friends," said Mackie, who was an Olympic semi-finalist in the 100 metres back in 1996. "I planned from earlier in the season to retire here, and didn't even want to run in the final. I might not have won it anyway."
Still only 30, Mackie might have had several years' sprinting left in him, but two factors combined to persuade him to retire now. One is the need to support his family and pay the mortgage, and the other is the fact that, largely due to a series of injuries, he no longer has the same enthusiasm for the sport.
"This winter yet again was one in which I had fantastic training but then things did not work out," he explained. "And I've just not been able to have the 110 per cent enthusiasm and commitment to training that I've had since I first competed at the age of 11."
Mackie has yet to decide what he will do now to earn a living, and, although he has a short list of options, refused to reveal what they are.
Jared Deacon, the British international who is married to the Scottish sprinter Susan Deacon, also retired yesterday. In the Englishman's case, though, it was after the 200m final, in which he came second to Ian Horsburgh from Edinburgh.
Not long after Mackie had bade farewell, Scottish Athletics honoured two even more illustrious sprinters as it launched its Hall of Fame. Eric Liddell, the Olympic 400m champion in 1924, was the first to be inducted, with Allan Wells the second. Wells, who won the 100m at the 1980 Games in Moscow, accepted the honour in person, while Liddell, who died in a Japanese prison camp in 1945, was represented by his eldest daughter, Patricia Russell.
Meanwhile, athletes bidding to qualify for the Melbourne Games found conditions prohibitive. Although 16 athletes had done so before this meeting, few came close to emulating that over the weekend.
Shirley Webb coped best with the drizzle and wind, exceeding the qualifying distance four times in her series of six throws in the hammer. Webb first booked her place on the plane to Melbourne with a throw of 66.88 metres back in March.
Two athletes who have already secured their berths, Allan Scott and Chris Baillie, had a close duel in the 110m hurdles. Scott got off to a good start, and had just enough in the closing stages to hold off a strong challenge from his training partner.
Lee McConnell was a comfortable winner of the 200m in 23.67sec, despite only competing occasionally in the event. McConnell has qualified in three events - the 200m, the 400m and the 400m hurdles - but is expected to opt only for the latter.
On a warm and dry day, Hayley Ovens would surely have ducked under the 1,500m time of 4min 13.5 mark, but despite a gutsy last lap finished in 4:15.51. Morag Maclarty and Freya Murray had kept pace with Ovens for most of the race, and, with Susan Scott, who won the 800m yesterday, having already qualified, the competition in the event should augur well for the future.
ATHLETES WITH COMMONWEALTH GAMES STANDARDS
Men: 110m hurdles: Chris Baillie, Allan Scott. 400m hurdles: Nick Stewart. 3,000m steeplechase: Andrew Lemoncello, Kevin Sheppard. Long jump: Darren Ritchie. High jump: Mark Taylor. Hammer: Iain Park.
Women: 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles: Lee McConnell. 800m, 1,500m: Susan Scott. 5,000m, 10,000m: Kathy Butler. Marathon: Hayley Haining, Susan Partridge. Hammer: Shirley Webb. Long jump: Gillian Cooke. Pole vault: Kirsty Maguire.