Eilidh Doyle on overcoming hurdles in bid for her third Olympics, her love of athletics and seeing Hearts ‘back where they belong’

The road to the Tokyo Olympics has not run smoothly for any athlete but for Eilidh Doyle there have been a couple of particularly tricky hurdles to overcome.

A torn calf muscle and a broken toe have left her with a race against time to be fit for the Olympic trials in Manchester on June 26-27.

“I tore my calf about six weeks ago and I was just kind of getting on top of that and then I broke my toe in a bit of a freak accident - I stubbed it on the doorframe,” she explained.

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“I was getting the wee man ready for his bed. He’d just been for his bath and I was taking washing through to the bedroom and I just caught it - I wasn’t even running!

Olympic medallist Eilidh Doyle shows off footballer Leighton McIntosh's painting which will be displayed on billboards to encourage fans to get behind Scottish athletes at the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“I knew it was quite bad. I put him to bed and as I was coming down the stairs my husband was like, ‘what the hell’s wrong?’ My foot was the size of a balloon at that point and then the next morning it was black and blue all over.”

The ‘wee man’ is son Campbell who arrived in January 2020, just a couple of months before the world went into lockdown. The Olympics were not immune from the pandemic but, for Doyle, the decision to delay the Tokyo Games by a year was not unwelcome.

“There was almost a bit of a relief when the Olympics got postponed. It was nice to enjoy just being a mum and not have that ‘Oh I need to get back and get ready’. I could switch off, relax.

“So motivation to train and compete during that first lockdown last year was quite low but come September and focusing on the next year the motivation went up again. With injuries and uncertainties it’s been up and down but it’s been up and down for everybody. I’m not alone - everybody’s been in a bit of a rollercoaster with the pandemic.”

Eilidh Doyle celebrates with Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond and Anyika Onuora after Britain won bronze in the 4x400m relay at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

An Olympic bronze medallist as part of the British 4x400 metres relay team in Rio in 2016, the extra year has given Doyle time to recalibrate as she looks to add to her impressive array of precious metal.

She is already the most decorated Scottish female athlete in terms of the number of medals won and although she’s hungry for more, Doyle stresses her motivation comes from elsewhere.

“My ambitions never really come from winning medals which is funny because there is a fair collection there. I’ve always come from the pure love of it - I’ve always had sheer joy from doing my sport.

“That’s where it’s always come from and the medals have taken care of themselves because of that. So for me it’s important to still have that motivation and that love of the sport because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it as well as I have in the past. And if that brings medals then that’s always the nice bonus.”

Eilidh Doyle in full flow during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Doyle has conceded that she has run out of time to run the 400m hurdles in Tokyo and will concentrate on making the relay team, a tough enough task in itself given the quality of the GB squad. But at 34 she has the experience and the ability to run in her third Olympics.

"All being well, it will be a big achievement,” she acknowledged. “They’ve been two very different Olympics for me. Having London [in 2012], a home Olympics as my first Games, was a massive experience, and then going to Rio and actually winning an Olympic medal was huge.

“So I’m fortunate enough to have had two fantastic experiences at Olympics and - all being well and I’m on the team - this one will be very, very different and it will be an interesting one.”

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Bronze medallists Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Eilidh Doyle and Anyika Onuora on the podium at Rio. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Doyle’s deep roots in her sport go beyond the track. She sits on the board of Scottish Athletics and is a trustee of Athletics Trust Scotland, a charitable spinoff from the governing body that aims to spread the sport’s reach and impact at grassroots level.

She is also working with Team GB and Purplebricks on the ‘Home Support’ campaign which has seen the estate agent commission unique artworks to encourage the nation to get behind the British team heading to Tokyo.

Among the artists being used is Cove Rangers footballer Leighton McIntosh whose abstract painting will soon be displayed on billboards around the country.

“It’s a campaign to get everyone behind the home athletes at the Tokyo Olympics because obviously there’s going to be no travelling support,” said Doyle.

“It’s important to know there is support for them back home. This one in particular is a reminder for people to get behind the Scottish athletes.”

McIntosh, who began his career with Dundee, is managing to combine a League One promotion push with Cove with a burgeoning career as an artist.

“He’s doubly talented!” added Doyle. “He said it was a nice way to switch off from the football was to paint and use that as an outlet.”

The hurdler is a huge football fan herself and has never hidden her love of Hearts. She is looking forward to getting back to Tynecastle when games are opened up again to supporters. For now, she has been happy to watch on TV as Hearts secured the Championship title and promotion back to the top flight.

“We should never have been down in the first place but we’re back where we belong so that’s the main thing,” she said.

Eilidh Doyle is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo, with the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK. To enter the draw to receive one of 2,020 limited edition prints, visit https://page.purplebricks.co.uk/teamgb_homesupport/

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