No Josh Kerr and Samantha Kinghorn were our main 4J Athlete of the Year award winners in 2023
By David Ovens, Chair of Scottish Athletics
As 2023 comes to a close, we can look back on yet another great year for our sport.
The highlight of the year was surely Josh Kerr’s gold medal at the World Championships, defeating Jakob Ingebrigtsen, in what was a carbon copy of Jake Wightman’s victory over the same Norwegian athlete in 2022.
But Josh Kerr wasn’t our only World champion in 2023. No fewer than three of our para athletes came home with gold medals from the World Para Athletics Championships: Ben Sandilands prevailed in the T20 1500m; Samantha Kinghorn took gold in the T53 100m, as well as three silver medals over 400m, 800m and the relay; and Gavin Drysdale took gold in the T72 100m.
With Alice Goodall and Megan Keith taking gold medals in the 10,000m and 5000m respectively at the Euro U23 Championships, as well as some great performances at the Euro U20 championships and the Commonwealth Youth Games, it shows that the future is looking bright, too.
I don’t think we have ever been able to point to such a period in Scottish Athletics where we have had such a range of athletes at the very top of the sport internationally.
The grassroots of our sport is in great shape, too. Our membership numbers are almost back to pre-pandemic levels and we have an incredibly strong club system across all of our communities, driven by so many dedicated volunteers, which underpins the sport.
Ben Sandilands on Para World champs gold in Paris in the T20 1500m
Alice Goodall won gold at the Euro U23 Champs on the track (photo by James Rhodes)
But amongst all of the positive things we can celebrate in our sport, there are some worrying signs around our facilities.
Councils are facing tightening budgets and sports facilities are coming under threat of closure.
Athletics tracks are expensive to build and maintain. Scottish Athletics does not have the financial means to fund facilities. The capital cost of maintaining facilities is also well beyond the means of most community clubs and groups and therefore we rely on local councils and central government to invest in and maintain these facilities.
Increasingly, however, they are being looked at as ‘low hanging fruit’, as councils look to cut their costs.
This is a short-sighted view and Scottish Athletics will continue to fight our corner with local authorities and the Scottish Government to protect these assets and make the case for the long term physical and mental health benefits which these facilities provide for local communities up and down the country.
Grangemouth’s future is a huge issue and concern – as such a key venue for track and field (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Looking forward to 2024, it is shaping up to be another very exciting year.
We have the World Indoor Championships on home soil in March and hopefully there will be a strong Scottish contingent in the British team at Glasgow.
And then, of course, all eyes will be on Paris for the Olympics and Paralympics in the summer. With the current crop of athletes we have, I am sure that several medals will be coming back to Scotland from these events!
Next year also marks the centenary of Eric Liddell’s victory over 400m at the Paris Olympics in 1924 and we will be holding a number of events during the year to mark that occasion, including at our national track and field championships in August.
However, as 2023 draws to a close, above all I want to say thank you to the athletics community in Scotland for your continued commitment to the sport as coaches, officials, athletes, parents and helpers.
It is the strength and resilience of our grassroots infrastructure which has created the foundations for the successes of our Scottish athletes internationally.
Happy New Year when it comes . . . and let’s hope for a very successful 2024!
Chair David Ovens interviewed Zoey Clark in a special Q and A at our Club Conference (photo by Bobby Gavin)