Commonwealth Games: New athletics chief outlines high hopes for Scottish medals in Birmingham

David Ovens, the new chair of Scottish Athletics, hopes that every member of Scotland’s track and field team at this year’s Commonwealth Games will be a genuine medal contender.

Scottish athlete Laura Muir arrives back at Edinburgh Airport after winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Scottish athlete Laura Muir arrives back at Edinburgh Airport after winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Qualifying standards have been set high for Birmingham 2022 as the sport’s governing body looks to build on the success of Scottish athletes at last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Laura Muir delivered one of the greatest runs by a Scot on the global stage to win silver in the women’s 1500 metres in Tokyo and Josh Kerr took a memorable bronze over the same distance in the men’s race.

The pair have already been pre-selected for the Scotland team for Birmingham along with fellow Olympians Jake Wightman, Eilish McColgan, Jemma Reekie and Andy Butchart.

The full squad is likely to number between 23 and 25 and will not be finalised until the end of June.

Ovens rates the initial half dozen as leading candidates to land a medal but thinks there will be enough strength in depth to ensure a decent haul for Scotland.

“I really do have high hopes for what we can do in Birmingham,” said Ovens, who took over as chair from Ian Beattie last September.

“I think it is great that six athletes have been pre-selected after such strong performances at the Olympics and any one of those six could win a medal.

Josh Kerr celebrates his bronze medal in the men's 1500m final at the Tokyo Olympic Games. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

“The qualifying standards to make the team are pretty hard to be honest so I am confident that whoever makes the team for Scotland then becomes a medal contender come July - although the nature of the Commonwealths is that some events are tougher than others.”

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Scotland won five athletics medals at the last Commonwealth Games, in Gold Coast in 2018, but gold was conspicuously absent. There were silvers for the now retired Eilidh Doyle in the women’s 400 metres hurdles and para sprinter Maria Lyle in the women’s 100 metres (T35), and bronzes for Mark Dry in the men’s hammer, Wightman in the men’s 1500 metres and Robbie Simpson in the men’s marathon.

With the world and European championships also scheduled to take place, it promises to be a hectic summer and Ovens hopes the Scots can turn in the type of performances that can have an inspirational effect on future generations.

David Ovens, the new chair of Scottish Athletics, speaking at a club conference session. Picture: Bobby Gavin

“Without question, the summer is going to be really exciting for our elite athletes,” said Ovens.

“It will be busy with World Champs and European Champs but as a Scot I am really excited about the Commonwealths. Athletes in Scotland don’t get that vest chance all that often so this is a moment to savour.

“I am firmly in the camp that our big names fire the imaginations of the next generation and are an inspiration.

“If we wind back some years, London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 were huge events and I don’t think it is any coincidence that since then the level of Scotland’s best athletes has risen.

“As well as chair, I’m a club coach with Fife AC and to see the likes of Owen Miller and Nicole Yeargin come back here after the Paralympics and Olympics to come to Pitreavie was brilliant, young athletes were mobbing them and desperate to ask questions and gain insight and motivation.”

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