‘Birmingham medallists will inspire’ – Allison Curbishley

Thursday 17th November 2022

Photo by Bobby Gavin

News that the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham will host the 2026 European Championships has rekindled immediate fond memories of the Team Scotland performance at the Commonwealth Games in the same arena.

The tally of eight medals was the best performance by Scotland in athletics for 40 years and the exploits of Eilish McColgan, Laura Muir, Jake Wightman and others will remain inspirational for years to come.

Scottish Record holder Allison Curbishley won 400m silver at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur – and was Scotland’s only track and field medal that time.

Now, 24 years on, the BBC Radio 5 Live athletics summariser, reflects on Team Scotland’s athletics medal haul at Birmingham 2022 and what it means for the future of the sport.

 By Allison Curbishley

‘If you look back at the Scotland team I was in in 1998 . . . they were good athletes, but they weren’t necessarily household names.

‘At Birmingham 2022, a number of the athletes that performed well weren’t a surprise; they’d been in the system with either scottishathletics or British Athletics for a number of years and we’d all watched their progression.

‘There’s just this ethos now that Scots can compete, and I think it was borne out of 2014. Although it wasn’t a great medal haul for the athletics team in Glasgow, it was the start. We’d built on 2012 and we had talent. We were just getting better at everything.

Laura Muir wins gold in the 1500m only 24 hours after landing her first Commonwealth Games medal in the 800m (photo by Bobby Gavin)

‘It’s about aspiration, believing what’s possible, and taking everyone – coaches, fans, media, the nation – on that journey with you, because the expectation is there.

‘I’m not saying we didn’t have that in my day, we certainly had the talent, but it was just so disjointed.

‘Kuala Lumpur was still very early in my career. The focus for a lot of athletes was the build-up to the 2000 Olympics, but the Commonwealths for me was just such an amazing opportunity . . .

‘You hear Jake (Wightman) talk about it in 2018, you get that medal at the Commonwealth Games, and it almost spurs you onto great things. That’s exactly what happened for me.

Allison Curbishley picked out Eilish McColgan’s 10,000m title win as her favourite moment – and the legend inside the Team Scotland kit says it all (photo Bobby Gavin)

‘My favourite Scottish performance in Birmingham has to be Eilish (McColgan) winning the Women’s 10,000m gold.

‘That last lap . . . WOW. I mean, I actually did everything that you’re not meant to do on 5 Live.

‘I thought I’d become really strict with myself, but when we’re playing out the race commentary from Mike (Costello) you can just hear me screaming in the background.

‘It was just everything about that race. It was world class timewise and the quality of the field she was beating, but it was just the way she did it.

‘Honestly, I never thought I’d hear the noise that was created in Birmingham that night. I thought that was parked in 2012.

‘A close second was seeing Laura (Muir) win in a Scottish vest. I absolutely loved that she threw herself at the 800m too.

‘It felt like there was a story for literally every page, but just watching Eilish do it, and in the manner in which she did it.

‘There were just so many comparisons with her mum and seeing Liz at the end, it was proper Disney film stuff.’

Our women’s 4x400m quartet closed the medal tally at eight in the final event of the athletics programme in Birmingham (photo by Bobby Gavin)

We had a great team atmosphere (in 1998). But if you have not got medallists, then you don’t have anything to really feed off.

‘Laura talks about watching Eilish run and without a doubt that helps motivate you.

‘Eilish talks about returning to the dining halls in the Village and the guys had all decorated her room and put flags up everywhere. It’s just little things like that (that make it special).

‘I mean, looking back, it was nice for me in some ways to be the only medallist in 1998 because people want to talk to you.

‘But in many ways you would prefer to be remembered for being in this golden age of athletics and that’s what these guys have.

‘We now have athletes who have become the inspiration for the next generation.

To have a little kid in a far-flung part of Scotland be able to put on the TV and watch somebody like Jake, Eilish or Laura and go, ‘They look like me, they sound like me, I can do that,’ that’s all you can ask.

‘After the success we had in Birmingham, we should go into the winter celebrating that.’

Allison Curbishley spoke to Katy Barden for PB


Tags: Allison Curbishley, Birmingham 2022, Team Scotland

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