Mark Pollard believes the recent 4J Annual Awards reflect the high quality and depth of Scottish athletes.
Josh Kerr was named our 4J Athlete of the Year while Samantha Kinghorn landed the 4J Para Athlete of the Year award – both of course are world champions in 2023.
And our Head of Performance feels the lassy short-lists reflect on another very exciting year for our elite ahtletes in the sport at global level.
‘I guess the main headline from the 4J Awards would be that our two Athlete of the Year winners are World Champions this year,’ said Mark.
‘That’s exciting to see and in many ways it reflects where we have reached in terms of Scottish athletes and their coaches competing on the international stage and being contenders at the very top.
‘We can look at the short-lists in terms of quality and depth in a moment but it is only fair initially that we celebrate and acknowledge the achievements of Josh and Samantha and indeed the standards they are setting.
‘Josh spoke after winning gold in Budapest about his 16-year journey in the sport. That is a key message we’ve mentioned often ourselves but for him it was a moment he had been building towards even in recent years.
‘He was on the podium in the Olympics with a superb bronze in 2021 but the following summer did not quite go to plan. He’s gone away from that with his coach (Danny Mackey) and worked really hard to step up even further among the very best 1500m runners in the world.
‘Budapest was the culmination of that over three rounds and then over a final 200m to get ahead of Jakob Ingebrigtsen. It was a richly deserved gold.
Mark Pollard (above) and Josh Kerr
Photo via Brooks Running
‘Samantha, working with coach Rodger Harkins, has had an unbelievable year in Para athletes. Her range of distances and competing on the track or the road is so impressive.
‘And then, in Paris, she won a world title and three other medals in a week when she had additional responsibilities and pressure as joint captain of GB and NI.
‘I think we saw Samantha grow even more that week – leading the team by example from the front.
‘She’s getting quicker, too, at a number of distances so that bodes well for the Paralympics next year.
Samantha Kinghorn in Paris with coach Rodger Harkins (photo by Pamela Robson)
‘As we celebrate those two winners it is important we do look a little more at the short-lists.
‘Laura Muir and Neil Gourley are European Indoor medallists and Jemma Reekie was fifth in a World Champs final; Scout Adkin with team medals in World Champs and high finishes is now among the very best mountain runners in the world.
‘The quality is really high and we even had a couple of European Champions at U23 on the track who were squeezed off the short-list.
‘Similarly on the Para list we have had two further World Champions from last summer – Gavin Drysdale and Ben Sandilands – miss out on our Para Athlete of the Year.
‘So all of that captures quite emphatically where we are it in terms of our performance athletes.
‘It is undoubtedly a strong era for athletics in Scotland but sport always reminds us that nothing is guaranteed.
‘Jake Wightman and Eilish McColgan have been class act performers in recent years but have had difficult times over a few months in 2023 through injury.
‘We are excited about the levels Scottish athletes and their coaches can reach and enjoy their success. But we do know nothing can be taken for granted as the Olympics and Paralympics loom next year.’