Rio Olympics could mark high point for Scots athletes

Beth Potter is heading to the Rio Olympics after success at the 10,000m trials.Beth Potter is heading to the Rio Olympics after success at the 10,000m trials.
Beth Potter is heading to the Rio Olympics after success at the 10,000m trials.
The man charged with guiding Scotland's governing body for athletics for the next four years has revealed how he felt deeply emotional watching the London Marathon.

Ian Beattie, chairman of Scottish Athletics, fully expects to experience another rollercoaster in a fortnight’s time as Olympic aspirations face make-or-break at the British Trials in Birmingham.

The Alexander Stadium is being tipped to become a field of dreams for Scots with a number of athletes hoping to join four already selected for Team GB and NI in Rio – marathon trio Callum Hawkins, Tsegai Tewelde and Derek Hawkins and 10,000m runner Beth Potter.

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In top-class sport, assumptions and predictions count for nothing, of course, but Beattie is genuinely excited at the prospect of Scotland enjoying the best track and field representation at the Olympics for many years.

“I found watching the London Marathon a very emotional experience this year,” said Beattie, pictured, an ultra runner, who has raced the London Marathon.

“To have three Scottish athletes run sub 2.13 at the Olympic trial was an outstanding achievement, and I am sure there is even more to come from all of them. There is no doubt in my mind that performances like that give a boost to the entire Scottish athletics community 
and provide a great motivation to others to improve their performances.

“I was particularly pleased for everyone at Kilbarchan AAC [the Hawkins brothers’ club] and Shettleston Harriers [Tewelde’s club]. Both are clubs which have done a lot of tremendous work over the last few years and are two of our leading ‘Club Together’ [development programme] clubs.

“It is great to see their hard work recognised by having their athletes selected to be part of the British Olympic team in Rio and of course Beth Potter then followed that up with success in the British 10,000m trials at Highgate in London.”

With no more than five Scottish athletes in Team GB and NI for each of the past six Olympic Games, it is understood there was an official ‘target’ of six set for Rio in high-level discussions.

As well as the four selected, a further eight athletes head to Birmingham already with the required qualification standards and needing a top-two finish in their event to gain automatic selection (in the women’s 5,000m, three Scottish women are competing for those two automatic places – Steph Twell, Eilish McColgan and Laura Whittle).

Beattie, who firmly believes the credit for current form lies with the athletes, their coaches and their support teams – after development work by their clubs – is cautiously optimistic.

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“I am confident there will be quite of few other Scots joining the four already selected,” he said.

“It’s an exciting time for our top-end athletes and it is really positive to see an increasing number of Scottish athletes becoming realistic contenders for places in UK teams.

“We must not forget that the performances we are seeing now are the result of many years of hard work and did not happen overnight – it is one of the reasons why all of the development work going on in our clubs is so important.”

That ongoing work at the broad base of the pyramid – and Scottish Athletics also govern hill running, cross country, Para athletics and ultra running – convinced Beattie to carry on in the post after an initial tenure which spanned the huge excitement of Glasgow 2014. “I wanted to continue because I enjoy the role and love being part of Scottish Athletics at this level,” he said.

“While we have seen some really positive things happen in the last four years, I am convinced that there is a lot more to come in the years ahead.

“Results don’t happen overnight, but take many years of hard work. Swimming is an excellent example of a Scottish sport that has performed at a high level for quite a number of years, but which took a few years to get everything in place.

“We have now put down some strong foundations for the future, and I expect to see Scottish athletes perform at a very high level in the years ahead.”

There was another Scottish success story yesterday when Nick Percy won the NCAA Collegiate title in America with a Scottish discus record of 61.27m (improving his own recent best).

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That made it three national track and field records broken in a week following Andrew Butchart’s 3000m best last Sunday in Birmingham and Laura Muir’s new mile mark in Oslo on Thursday.

It’s all grist to the mill for Beattie, who in his day job as chief operating officer of legal firm Lindsays has stretched that connection for the firm to sponsor Eilish McColgan and the Scottish cross country season.

The latter agreement has provided a big rise in entry number for events like the National XC at Callendar Park in Falkirk, with this year’s women’s winner Beth Potter already Rio-bound and men’s champion Butchart a contender to join her.

“The National Cross Country Championship has always been one of my favourite days in the running calendar,” added Ian.

“There must have been more than 3,000 people this year at Callendar Park, which is more than most Scottish football matches that day.

“The increase in numbers taking part in recent years has been great to see and is a real credit to the work being done at clubs all over the country.”

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