Top Scots athletes go east where the skies are blue

Lee McConnell, Eilidh Child and Lynsey Sharp will all be in Europe this weekend chasing qualifying standards at meetings with strong fields – and potentially better weather.

Scottish Athletics is putting a brave face on the situation as as many as a dozen of the country’s top athletes give their national championships at Scotstoun a body swerve.

It is a process which has been going on all season but is even more urgent given that the UK Olympic Trials are in Birmingham in three weeks time.

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Scottish Athletics chief executive Nigel Holl commented: “A number of athletes are chasing qualifying standards for the Olympics, European Championships and the World Juniors at meetings elsewhere – there are individual choices to be made by athletes and coaches and we do understand that it’s a very significant year and indeed time of year in this particular period.

“We need to be realistic about recognising that fields elsewhere could enable these top Scottish athletes to achieve times and performances that keep their aspirations for Olympic selection alive.”

He commented: “We’d love them to be at Scotstoun but the whole of Scotland also wants them to qualify for the major events.

“There are podium chances now (at Scotstoun) for many up-and-coming talented athletes and it’s worth noting that 20 of our 41-strong chosen squad are already posting the Commonwealth Games standard performances that will be required to get to Glasgow 2014 once the selection window opens in 2013,” Holl concluded.

The main lure this weekend is the event in Bydgoszcz in Poland where McConnell, and another member of the Scottish 4 x 400m relay team, Gemma Nicol, will compete over one lap as will current Scottish men’s No.1 Jamie Bowie and former champion Kris Robertson.

Sharp, meanwhile, having improved in two successive outings over 800m, will go up against one of her leading English rivals Marilyn Okoro, who has already recorded times under the two-minute mark this season.

Also missing will be top distance runners Steph Twell and Freya Murray.

Aldershot-based Twell, who like Child was a medallist in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, has still not quite reached the levels she had before her nasty ankle break in a Belgium cross-country race last year and could manage only 13th place in the 1500, at Hengelo in the Netherlands last Sunday. Her time of 4:09.59, more than five seconds slower then English winner Hannah England, with Laura Weightman (third place) and Charlene Thomas (seventh place) also well ahead.

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Surprisingly Twell ran again in the Rome Diamond League meeting last night but could only manage one place better (12th) by a margin of 0.09 seconds.

Edinburgh’s Murray, fifth in the BUPA London 10,000m road race last Sunday, is heading for Bilbao on Sunday and the European Cup 10,000m track event along with English rivals Jo Pavey, Charlotte Purdue and Gemma Steel where the target is the UK Athletics’ tough A qualifying standard of 31:45.00.

But Pavey opted to run in Rome last night too, clocking a season’s best of 15:09.53 in tenth place in the 5000m event.