Team Scotland at the 2022 Commonwealth Games: 51 medals, 13 golds and expectations exceeded
For a team who set no official medal targets, Scotland managed to exceed all expectations at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
By whichever metric you choose the 13 golds or the 51 medals in all, these Games rank as the most successful ever outside Scotland.
In fact, only Glasgow 2014 saw Scotland top either of those tallies, with a medal won on each of the 11 days of competition.
Long-distance runner turned triathlete Beth Potter got the ball rolling with her bronze medal on day one, quickly followed by para-cyclist Neil Fachie winning the first gold to move level with Alex ‘Tattie’ Marshall for most golds ever by a Scot at the Commonwealth Games with five.
That same evening, Ross Murdoch claimed a heart-warming bronze in the 200m breaststroke, the event in which he made his name eight years ago, as he prepares for his post-swimming career.
From there, the medals just kept pouring in, in particular from Duncan Scott who won six of them, including two golds and some revenge over GB teammate Tom Dean as their one-two from Tokyo last summer was reversed.
He could not quite match the seven medals from Gold Coast, but considering he was appearing in his first major competition of the year because of an extended absence through Covid, it was a remarkable showing.
When it comes to the most memorable moment of the entire Games though, Scottish, or otherwise, it is hard to look past Eilish McColgan’s victory in the 10,000m.
Mother Liz won that race twice at the Commonwealth Games, including in Edinburgh in 1986. But it is hard to imagine that even on a home track she could have received more support than Eilish did as she kicked away from former world cross-country champion Irene Chepet Cheptai to take the biggest win of her life before going to celebrate with her mother in the stands.
For chef de mission Elinor Middlemiss, a veteran of five Commonwealth Games as a competitor in badminton between 1986 and 2002, that was unquestionably one of the moments of the entire event.
She said: “A couple of highlights, even though there are lots of moments. You have to take your hat off to Eilish McColgan in that 10,000m, a Games record, winning gold.
“It was a moment for her, her friends and family and a moment for Team Scotland, but it was a Games moment for everybody as well. It was fantastic. I was really pleased, congratulations to Eilish and she was chosen to carry our closing ceremony flag, marching the team in for the closing ceremony which is fantastic.”
The opening ceremony saw para-powerlifter Micky Yule carry the flag, and he was the other athlete highlighted by Middlemiss, the first-ever female chef de mission for Scotland, in reflecting on the Games.
She added: “The other standout one for me was Micky Yule. He was our flagbearer at the opening ceremony, he’s been at two previous Games for us. He’s an inspirational athlete.
“He was in the Village within Team Scotland and he’s an iconic member of the team who is just brilliant and being in the auditorium when he won his bronze medal in the para-powerlifting heavyweight, it was just an absolute privilege to be there. I’m delighted for him, the whole place was just loving it and loving his performance.”
There were plenty more iconic moments from a Scottish perspective – Laura Muir righting the wrongs of Glasgow eight years ago with a bronze and a gold, Neah Evans shining in the absence of Katie Archibald with silver on the track and the road and of course 72-year-old debutant Rosemary Lenton, who became Scotland’s oldest-ever champion in the para women’s pairs bowls, only to be lose that title to 75-year-old George Miller just a few days later in the lawn bowls mixed pairs.
These Games might not have been on Scottish soil, but supporters travelled in huge numbers to take their place in the packed-out crowds.
And the Scots clearly won the hearts of the local fans too, roared on whether it was at Alexander Stadium for the athletics, Sandwell Aquatics Centre for the swimming or the NEC for the hat-trick of boxing golds.
Pinpointing the reason for the success is not easy, but Middlemiss has a couple of theories.
She explained: “It’s a credit to everybody’s adaptability. Everyone has had difficult times through the pandemic, and the support mechanisms that kept athletes training or got them back into competition, sportscotland, the Scottish government, the governing bodies of sport in Scotland, they all did fantastically in adapting and allowing the athletes to do what they could and being creative about it.
“The other thing is, because of that, we didn’t set actual targets because we didn’t want to put that pressure on people. So, it was about the athlete’s individual aims and aspirations, and we were looking for them to have the support so they could feel that they could perform at their best. The medals have followed.
“It’s a combination of all that effort during the lockdown times and creating that team ethos and unity to help them feel supported and perform. It’s been an absolute honour and quite humbling to lead the team through that.”
The challenge now will be top this performance in four years’ time in Victoria when the Games returns to Australia. That will not be easy but the hope for Middlemiss is that these Games will inspire those coming through.
She said: “Hopefully anyone back in Scotland who has seen any of it broadcast or written will be inspired by some of the performances. It will stick with them.”
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