Scottish athletes hit purple patch

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Scotland’s elite track and field athletes hit a rich run of form over an amazing 24-hour period only days before the first anniversary of the start of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

And Junior athletes backed up fine performances by Laura Muir, Mark Dry, Steph Twell and Chris O’Hare by also claiming medals at the European U20s and World Youths events in Sweden and Colombia respectively.

It reflects a feel-good factor across the sport in Scotland which has been reflected in representation in GB teams for international event and burgeoning entry numbers  in domestic fixtures at various levels.

Scotland now looks assured of at least five members of Team GB for the World champs in Beijing in August with hammer thrower Dry and 5000m runner Twell having achieved second qualification standards and looking set to be named next week alongside Laura Muir, Eilidh Child and Lynsey Sharp.

O’Hare could well join them and there are one or two others harbouring late selection hopes, too, ahead of an announcement by British Athletics next Tuesday.

*Muir sparked a remarkable 24-hour period with her 3.58.66 run in the Diamond League in Monaco on Friday evening – breaking her own Scottish National record and becoming the first Scottish woman to break the four-minute barrier.

*Then, on Saturday afternoon, hammer thrower Dry reached 76.56m at a competition in Loughborough and is now in line for a first appearance at the World Champs.

*Twell followed that in Belgium a few hours later with 15.14.39 to rubberstamp her return to the big time in terms of track and field championships after making the 15.20 standard once previously for 5000m and winning the British title in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago.

*O’Hare was a silver medallist that day and a new PB of 3.34.82 saw the Scot win his race at the same Heusden meeting as Twell and open the door to Beijing selection. O’Hare will now look for a second qualifying standard at the Anniversary Games in London this weekend. That 3.34.83 run is the third-fastest of all-time by a Scot outdoors and only one second behind record-holder John Robson (3.33.83).

As the dust settled on those superb Senior performances, the Juniors were in hot pursuit and Josh Kerr was named European U20 champion at 1500m in Eskilstuna, Sweden, on Saturday evening and George Evans won a bronze medal at the World Youths in Cali, Colombia, in the discus through the night.

Thursday this week represent a year since the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and Crown Point sports centre in Glasgow will stage a special ceremony to celebrate laying a new track surface taken from Hampden and Lesser Hampden as a physical legacy for the sport.

 

‘I think it was fair to say it was a thrilling weekend for the athletics ‘family’ in Scotland,’ said scottishathletics chief executive, Nigel Holl.

‘It started really with Laura’s fantastic run in Monaco as she became the first Scottish woman ever to break four minutes for the 1500m and just rolled on from there.

‘From Loughborough to Sweden to Belgium and even at the World Youths in Colombia – where three out of four Scots with GB reached finals – we’ve seen some terrific performances.

‘We credit the athletes and coaches involved and, as always, we know that these times and distances are not achieved overnight. There are years of hard work behind them and commitment from athletes, their coaches and their families and, often, great support from clubs.

‘What I do think it does is puts markers down for others. Seb Coe spoke about ‘inspiring a generation’ when the Olympics were held in London three years ago and, remember, many of our best young athletes were still at school at that time.

‘At the Euro U20s we saw Josh Kerr win gold and three other athletes finished fourth (Jack Lawrie 400m Hurdles) and fifth (Mhairi Hendry 800m and Kathryn Gillespie 1500m). They were part of a record-breaking GB performance for that European Juniors event.

‘That follows on from four Scots coming home from the Euro U23s in Estonia with medals and, of course, we’re hopeful of very strong representation at GB level for the World Champs.

‘We said all along that the Scotland team at the Commonwealth Games last year had a high percentage of athletes under the age of 23 – athletes like Laura Muir.

‘We’re seeing a number of those mature now and there’s another wave below that in their late teens and early 20s which augurs really well, also.

‘It is exciting for clubs and coaches in Scotland because they are the starting point in athlete development. 

‘We also have a National Academy launched earlier this year after an initial ‘pilot’ with our best 16 and 17-year-olds. A number of those receiving support through the National Academy have been performing at the Euro U20s, Euro U23s and the World Youths – all representing GB, which is one of our goals.

‘So you have athletes there effectively as the ‘standard bearers’ and hopefully that motivates and inspires a young element to seek to follow suit. We have our Age Group champs coming up at Grangemouth on August 22/23 where the track laid a few months ago is also part of the surface used at Hampden and Lesser Hampden at Glasgow 2014.

‘I am pretty sure we are going to get a huge entry for that event, with clubs galvanised to get youngsters competing and hundreds of people involved.’

Kerr, not yet 18, surged from sixth to first in the final 200m of the 1500m final at the Euro U20s in Eskilstuna.

He has been a regular medal winner at Scottish age group events and follows Edinburgh AC club-mate Jake Wightman, who won the same title two years ago in Italy.

Coupled with Muir’s National record, O’Hare’s 3.34 PB and Gillespie’s fifth place in Sweden, the win by Kerr followed a bronze for Neil Gourley at the same distance in the Euro U23s.

Muir’s coach Andy Young said: ‘There are some exciting things happening with the 1500m at the moment by Scottish athletes.

‘I think when you look back over the weekend and Laura breaking four minutes, a great PB for Chris and Josh Kerr winning the European U20 title, then it was probably Scotland’s best-ever weekend at that distance.

‘Hopefully it inspires more athletes to keep training hard and seeking to improve.’

*Enter Scottish Age Group Champs via www.scottishathletics.org.uk

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First published on: 21 July, 2015 12:00 am

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