Athletes have to grow up fast in international sport but to go from baby to grandma in less than a decade still seems pretty extreme.
Heading to her first Commonwealth Games, in Delhi, in 2010, Grace Reid was a bright-eyed kid, with plenty of promise but relatively little experience. In just over a fortnight, as one of the veterans of the Team Scotland aquatics contingent, the diver will step on to the 3m springboard with a vastly enhanced knowledge of elite level competition and an elevated level of expectation.
“It is kind of scary. Eight years ago it was Baby Grace and I was a tiny little thing, heading off to India, still in S3, and no-one knew me,” she said. “That was lovely, though, and there was no pressure but now I suppose I am the veteran, or Grandma Grace as they often refer to me now. This is my third Games. It is still exciting but there is a little bit more pressure now and that’s the nature of the beast.
“They are some of my proudest moments. We had a family dinner the other night and in the dining room there are two pictures of me stood at the closing ceremony in Delhi with one of the umbrellas that were used and a Scotland flag wrapped around me. Obviously eight years ago I did look a little bit different and I have grown up a lot since then, but it was nice to think how far I have come. I actually feel really proud and get quite emotional when I think about how I have achieved a lot in those eight years.”
The youthfulness of 2010 has gone but hers is not exactly a face scored by worry lines. Now 21, Reid knows what she is capable of, having taken silver in the 2017 World Championships in the 3m mixed synchro and a gold medal in the same event at the 2016 European Championships, where she also grabbed an individual bronze. Issues with a bone spur in her foot have hampered her training in the build-up. She is still hopeful of challenging but knows life will not be easy with five of the current top eight in the world competing at the Commonwealths.
Her blinkered approach could pay off. Recently moving to London to train in the London Olympic pool, with renowned coach Jane Figueiredo, the geographical switch meant putting her Applied Sciences degree at Edinburgh University on hold. Which already hands her an advantage over her teenage self.
“I have done two years and I have two years left, but right now I have to focus on diving and put everything into that and see where that takes me,” she added. “I remember I was coming back to sit my standard grade exams [after her Games debut in Delhi], which was really difficult and my peers maybe didn’t quite appreciate that I had just been to a Commonwealth Games and I didn’t really appreciate that either. It is only now that I look back that I can see that wow, that really wasn’t normal for a 13-year-old to be in Delhi for a month. It was really different.”
Back then Reid was cared for by older team-mates and she sees this as a chance to pay that kindness forward.
“There were people who really looked after me,” she said. “Some of the hockey girls and Corrie Scott, the swimmer, were with me when I went to Delhi and they really just took me under their wing. I am friends with them now and I would like to think that this time the younger ones will feel they are able to come and talk to me, whether it’s about their sport, food in the village, whatever it is. I really hope I can give back and look after them the way some of the older ones looked after me when I needed it.
“The thing about Delhi was that it was overwhelming in some ways but a lot of it did go over my head because I was so young. I didn’t appreciate the enormity of it all which was a bonus in a lot of ways. But that experience helped me carry on and do what I love now.”