A week ago, high jumper Nikki Manson was intent on blanking out the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
After missing out when the initial track and field athletes were named by Team Scotland in December, she was so scunnered that she had missed out by just one centimetre that she was actively looking to head to the USA to train and compete so that she could let the whole competition pass her by.
During a spell at Akron University in Ohio last year, chasing the Games qualifying standard, she found out that no-one there would be following events in Gold Coast.
Manson said: “I was thinking about going there to train in April. I was disappointed [I didn’t make the team] so I didn’t really want to watch the Games, I wanted to be away. I used to say last year I was wanting the Commonwealth Games standard and that was always over their heads.”
The experience wasn’t all positive, with Manson critical of the food, and unimpressed with the college experience. “Most friends were student athletes which was different to my degree in Glasgow which was more academic. Sometimes I struggled to get on with the Americans as they had a different sense of humour and I was doing exercise physiology and I didn’t enjoy the course. I didn’t find it that challenging. But I went over to jump and jumped well so it was good.”
The hard work there paid off to some extent when the 23-year-old cleared the required 1.86m height last July but, unable to repeat it, she was excluded from the Scotland team. Since then Manson has made the height again but that only added to her sense of frustration and annoyance that it was too late to earn a place at the Games.
That changed last week when fellow high jumper Emma Nuttall withdrew with a knee injury and Manson immediately reached new heights to vindicate the decision. Given the nod on Thursday, on Saturday she cleared 1.90m at the Scottish University Championships to set a new national indoor record. Manson added: “When I got the call on Thursday I was pretty pragmatic, not particularly excited, because I’d been disappointed when I wasn’t initially selected so it didn’t really register.”
She told her family but they were sworn to secrecy as team chiefs waited until yesterday to make it official. That meant she was carrying a secret when she cleared the bar on Saturday but another weight has been lifted from her.
“On Saturday I knew but a lot of my friends didn’t so I felt like I was going around with a secret. A lot of people were saying I should be added to the team but I couldn’t say anything. Now it’s maybe hitting home, getting photos and doing interviews and meeting the rest of the team. I had already accepted my fate so that’s why I was so shell-shocked.”
Having graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in biomedical engineering, Manson is still unsure where that will take her but, if her long-term plans are still unclear, she admits her short-term schedule is just as foggy.
The late call-up causes problems with her current plans centred on peaking for the outdoor season but now she will need to find a way to bring out the best in herself a couple of months earlier in Australia.
Manson’s family will also have to suss out the best way to get down under and get tickets for the Games.
She added: “I’m still trying to figure out my preparation. I want to finish my indoor season, I’ve got the British champs on Sunday then I’ll maybe have a couple of days off mentally.
“My coach has just retired and he’s going on a trip so he won’t be at the [final training] camp. But he’ll be at the Games, he’s got tickets for the male and female high jump.”