Six track and field athletes headed halfway round the globe to compete for Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa – seeking to deliver on their exciting potential.
And didn’t they truly ‘perform when it counts’ as they started the long journey back to Scotland with seven medals as precious cargo in the kit baggage!
It was a quite remarkable overall performance, individually and collectively, by the squad in Samoa as they claimed no fewer than three silver medals and four bronzes.
Alisha Rees was arguably the outstanding performer as she collected bronze first in the 100m and then came up with silver in the 200m with another terrific run.
There were a couple of PBs and one of those, by Ben Greenwood, was a National record at U17 for the 800m. George Evans added a discus silver to the bronze he took in the same event at the World Youths in Columbia earlier in the summer and he finished sixth in the shot in Samoa.
Cameron Tindle, Rachel Alexander and Carys McAulay were the other three athletes collecting medals – with Carys producing a silver medal run in the 800m final. Cameron took bronze in the 100m with third fastest Scottish U20 run of all-time at a PB of 10.42 and he went close to a double with fourth place in the 200m final. Rachel landed bronze in the long jump.
Congratulations from all at scottishathletics to these six athletes, their families, their coaches and the clubs who have played such a crucial role in their development.
It has been a spectacular 2015 so far for the National Academy, too, with GB vests, CYG medals and Age Group records galore as scottishathletics have sought to support teenagers displaying real promise by working in partnership with their coaches and support teams as well as their families.
And while it is right and proper to acknowledge that the CYG is a Commonwealth championship for 16 and 17-year-olds, and therefore still a ‘junior’ event, there’s no doubt the experiences in Samoa should motivate and inspire – and not just the six who were selected.
There’s clearly a really high standard now of young talent in Scotland for others to measure themselves against and aspire to – while these ‘elite’ youngsters themselves will one day look to convert junior glory to senior success. But we’ll let them get home to their nearest and dearest first before putting too much emphasis on the future . . .
Here’s our round-up on the performances of each of the six athletes, taking them in the order in which they competed at the Apia Stadium in Samoa.
Many thanks to Commonwealth Games Scotland for these photographs coming through on social media from Samoa and, in particular, to Gillian Cooke for comments from the athletes involved.
George Evans – discus silver
George Evans set the ball rolling for not just the track and field six but also Team Scotland itself as he became the first athlete to medal. George took silver in the discus with 58.19m and lost out only to the South African who won the World Youths in Cali.
‘It feels amazing to be Scotland’s first medallist of the Games, said George.
‘Coming away with a Silver medal, only beaten by the World Champion is the best thing that could have happened. I knew there were two guys who were ranked two metres and four metres above me so I thought it would be close depending on what happened on the day. To come out and get second, it couldn’t have gone any better.
‘It feels great to be the first but I’m sure there’s plenty more to come from everyone else.’
Prophetic, or what! George finished sixth in the shot putt final with 16.65m as he completed a really fine summer.
Alisha Rees – 100m bronze, 200m silver
Alisha Rees clocked 11.72 to win bronze in the 100m final – just one hundredth outside of her PB on a day when she had come through heats and semis to reach the top three in the Commonwealth.
And the 16-year-old from Banchory followed it up on Wednesday with 200m silver to continue the Scottish medal rush in Samoa.
‘I always knew a medal was a possibility but it’s all about performing on the day,’ said Alisha after the 100m final.
‘The wind was pretty much perfect so it was quite good conditions to run a fast time. I was really close to my PB but it’s about getting medals here. Once someone has won a medal it puts everyone in a good place to win one so it’s really good to be one of the first, it’s a great feeling.’
If anything, the 200m was even more impressive from Alisha as she clocked a windy PB of 23.61 to take second behind a Nigerian athlete.
‘It’s incredible, it’s the best feeling ever,” said Alisha.
‘Coming across that line and hearing I’d come second, nothing can beat it. That time is insane! Unfortunately it’s slightly wind assisted but it’s good to go sub 24 by such a long way.’
Cameron Tindle – celebrates 100m bronze medal
Cameron Tindle was by no means a medal favourite in the 100m and 200m but he came up with three fine performances over the shorter distance on Monday to take silver in 10.42 by three hundredths of a second.
Coming into the Samoa event his best stood at 10.63 and from the morning’s heat it was clear he meant business, setting new figures of 10.47 to progress as fastest qualifier to the semi-finals. He was just one hundredth slower in booking his place in the final where he unleashed a late surge to clinch Bronze in another new best of 10.42.
‘It means a lot because I’ve been working hard to even get selected for these Games,’ said Cameron.
‘Since I’ve been selected I have been working mega hard to do everything I can to put myself in the best position to do well. To come away with a medal is great.
‘My plan was to go in and run a PB, I wanted to run 10.4 this season so this was my last chance to do it. To run 10.47 in my heat it was great so everything from then on was a bonus. I just thought of my family back home and it drove me into third place.
‘I wasn’t expecting a medal. I knew going in I was placed about 5th going on my PB and I knew if I could run 10.4 it might grab me fourth or something like that. I didn’t realise I could come out with a medal so it was a shock but a nice shock.’
Cameron then made the 200m final and finished in fourth place with 21.14. He also made the 200m final at the World Youths.
Rachel Alexander – long jump bronze
Rachel Alexander kept up the momentum at the Apia Park athletics stadium with a Bronze in the long jump and produced a brilliant jump under pressure in the third round after two fouls in the opening two rounds.
With a third foul meaning an exit from the competition there was no room for error, but Rachel held her nerve to put in a jump of 5.90m which eventually secured her the medal.
‘After the first two no jumps I was so scared so the third one I just moved my run up way back to make sure I got one in,’ said the Giffnock North athlete.
‘After that I couldn’t really get it all together but I guess I’ll just go home and train for that and come back another time and do it better. Watching the guys do so well on Monday definitely made me want to do better as well so it’s just brilliant for the athletics team.
‘It’s good to come away with a medal because it’s something else to my name but I’m obviously hoping to keep improving from it and learn from what I’ve done here.’
Ben Greenwood takes bronze in the 800m
Ben Greenwood clinched bronze in the 800m final with his new PB of 1.50.40 slicing a couple of hundredths off his own Scottish National Record at U17.
Two Kenyan athletes had gold and silver wrapped up with Ben produced a determined finish to get to the line first and ensure all six Scots in track and field had medalled.
‘I’m shocked,’ said Ben. ‘At no point did I think I could get the Jamaican boy, I was fifth or something with 200m to go and I saw the Jamaican tiring.
‘I picked it up and dipped him on the line but I didn’t think it was possible I’d got it. I didn’t expect to get a medal here but I was feeling the pressure a bit, thinking this morning that everyone in athletics has got medals so far. It’s a bit unbelievable to get a medal.’
Carys McAulay – silver medal run at 800m
Carys McAulay’s 800m event went to a straight final which ensured the Warrington-based Scot had to wait three days before taking to the track.
After a great run at the World Youths, Carys was among the favourites in Samoa and finished second in 2.07.05 for her silver medal as Australia took the gold thanks to Amy Harding-Delooze.
‘The girl that won is a brilliant athlete,’ said Carys. ‘I couldn’t have asked from any more from myself. Everybody in athletics got a medal so that’s pretty amazing; to get a Commonwealth medal you can’t get any better than that. I’ve enjoyed the experience so much.’