Tale of two cities and one iconic Scottish track family – by Alex Jackson

Tuesday 27th December 2022

Eilish wins gold in Birmingham in August (photo by Bobby Gavin)

Alex lands MBE honour

When Alex Jackson was named on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2018, we reported that he was ‘more accustomed to presenting cross country medals than receiving one from royalty‘.

Alex had landed the Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal and our story was met with widespread support, celebration and appreciation as our community shared the moment with a volunteer who has had a ‘ringside seat’ at so many events over the past four or five decades.

Or, indeed, to be more accurate, has helped make hundreds of events happen.

Four years on and there’s another story to tell and very much of the ‘eye witness’ variety.

When Alex volunteered for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last summer, he probably didn’t expect to revisit so vividly his experiences of Edinburgh some 36 years earlier in 1986.

But that’s what happened, as he explains here . . .

Alex lands Lifetime Achievement award from sportscotland

‘I am fortunate to have some special memories from athletics over the years and here are a few from two of those moments – from Edinburgh in 1986 and Birmingham last summer.

‘There will be others who can say ‘I was there’ with the regard to both Liz (Lynch) and Eilish (McColgan) and I’ve no doubt they will have their own recollections.

‘At the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 I was Press team for Athletics at Meadowbank. As journalists from different counties requested athletes after races, it meant escorting the athletes to them and helping organise press conferences after races.

‘The Women’s 10,000m in the closing stages was down to an enthralling race between Liz Lynch and Anne Audain of New Zealand.

With two laps to go, Liz moved to the front and the winning margin was much greater than that at Birmingham 2022 – but the crowd noise was deafening.

‘I recall Hilda Everett, who was the Scottish Women’s Team Manager, being very emotional afterwards.

‘The press conference in the Meadowbank hall afterwards was packed with journalists. Sandy Sutherland of the Scotsman turned to me and said that if Liz hadn’t won it would probably have been only himself and Doug Gillon of the Glasgow Herald talking to her . . .

Liz and Jenny Selman greet Eilish on her Alexander Stadium lap of honour (photo by Bobby Gavin)

‘For Birmingham 2022, I volunteered again and was a member Medal ceremony team for Athletics.

‘The tasks for the role involved carrying medal trays, escorting athletes and VIPs who were presenting medals.

I was lucky enough to be ‘on shift’ the night of the Women’s 10,000m and watched the race from the tunnel – looking out to the track and sometimes looking up at the big screens.

‘As the leading athletes reduced from three to two with two laps to go, only Eilish and Irine Cheptai (Kenya) were left at the front.

The crowd volume increased till the home straight on the last lap when it became a crescendo as Eilish did what her mum had done some 36 years before.

‘In the tunnel before the medal ceremony while Elish was sitting waiting to be escorted outside I went across and said to her: ‘So the U17 Women’s athlete who finished fourth in an East District Cross County league meeting at Kirkcaldy in 2007 . . . is now a Commonwealth Champion!

‘The background to this was that in the build-up to the Games I had found a result from a cross country race in 2007 when four women who were in the 2022 Scotland team had all raced at Kirkcaldy: Eilish, Sarah Inglis, Laura Muir and Jenny Tan (now Selman)

‘The Scottish Athletics media channels picked it up and the historic link to those four athletes went a wee bit viral on social media – with the women involved contributing. It was great to see.

‘After the medal ceremony was over and Eilish came in to sit down again I said to her: ‘I don’t know who was more emotional at the playing of Flower of Scotland during the medal ceremony- me or you”.

‘Edinburgh 1986 and Birmingham 2002: a tale of two magic moments on the track for Scotland and memorable and very special occasions for me.’

With thanks to Alex

Tags: Alex Jackson, Birmingham 2022, Edinburgh 1986, Eilish McColgan, Liz Lynch

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