Athletics in Scotland is celebrating another golden age in terms of GB representation at major championships.
No fewer than seven Scots were named by British Athletics for the forthcoming World Champs in Beijing.
It matches the tally who went to Moscow for the 2013 championships – with the only other time Scotland has enjoyed such strength in a GB team way back when the World Champs began 32 years ago in 1983 in Helsinki.
Five Scots were automatic picks for Beijing following recent performances: British champions Laura Muir, Lynsey Sharp, Eilidh Child and Steph Twell as well as hammer thrower, Mark Dry, who broke a long-standing Scottish National record to make the GB qualifying standard.
Chris O’Hare, who recently went third on the Scottish all-time list at 1500m, was also picked after reaching the final in Moscow two years ago and picking up bronze medals at the European Champs outdoors and indoors in the past 12 months.
Kirsten McAslan, the British indoor 400m champion and Euro U23 4 x 400m gold medallist, was named in the relay selection for Beijing. Kirsten went to Moscow two years ago in that squad but, then aged 19, did not receive a run.
It is a remarkable demonstration of the sport’s growth in Scotland and in many ways reflects a feel-good factor still coursing in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games, with large entry fields at National championship events and club development and coach education on the rise.
Five of the seven selected are 25 or younger and disciplines covered feature endurance, hurdles, throws and sprints.
All at scottishathletics would like to firmly congratulate those athletes selected to represent GB at the World Champs and their coaches and families.
A number of clubs have been involved in their development, north and south of the border, and we offer our thanks to them for their crucial work and support to these and other athletes.
Rodger Harkins, Director of Coaching, is delighted with the selection news and believes these role models act as a real inspiration for the whole sport in Scotland.
In a special blog for the scottishathletics website, Rodger said: ‘We are delighted with this kind of representation with GB at the top level.
‘It actually equals the best number of Scots in a World Champs team – with seven having been in Moscow two year ago. That in itself was a 30-year high at that time with the figure only matched once before, at the first World Champs in 1983 when seven Scots were also selected.
‘We’re pleased, too, that four of those headed for Beijing were in Russia so we are starting to see some athletes compete regularly at the very top level.
‘So, one year out from the Olympics in Rio, we feel we are punching above our weight in terms of Scots with GB (with 62 athletes selected overall).
‘If you look back to 2011, a year before the London Olympics, we had four atheltes picked for the World Champs (eilidh Child, Lee McConnell, Susan Partridge and Andrew Lemoncello). It is good to see that number rising significantly.
‘We have good coverage of the various disciplines with those seven athletes involved in endurance, hurdles, throws and sprints. We had two or three jumpers in real contention for Beijing and they were unlucky not to make it. And Scottish marathon runners put a bigger focus on Rio next year rather than trying to qualify for Beijing.
These seven selected can be very proud and we see them as great role models in our sport – competing as they are at the very top at the World Champs, setting National Records and winning British titles.
‘Below the Senior age group, we are seeing young athletes take inspiration from them and that was reflected in Scots featuring for GB this summer at the World Youths and the Euro U20s and Euro U23s.
‘I don’t like to single out too many individuals but it is certainly worth noting that Mark Dry was required to throw beyond the (old) Scottish National Record for hammer twice simply to get selected. That shows you really have to perform when it counts even to be under consideration by British Athletics for a World Champs.
‘For Steph Twell this is a really welcome return after a couple of very tough years and we’re delighted for Steph . She is back where she belongs for the 5000m in Beijing after an awful lot of hard work and dedication.
‘While the World Champs are coming up, it is one of the busiest times of the year for us with track and field championships coming up in Aberdeen for the Seniors and Grangemouth for the Age Groups Champs (U13, U15, U17, U20).
‘Those are weekends when the family of athletics in Scotland gathers together and we love to see people commiting to competition.
‘A year ago, Chris O’Hare was in Aberdeen helping us present medals at our Age Group Champs. It is great our teenage athletes can see the way he’s stepped up from that level to a second World Champs appearance at the age of 24.
‘I think that demonstrates how our elite athletes remain close to the sport in Scotland and can help motivate and inspire others.
‘We’ve closing dates coming up soon for both those events (Seniors – midnight on Wednesday 29 July and Age Groups – midnight on August 5) and I would urge athletes, coaches and clubs to get their entries in and commit to competition in Aberdeen and Grangemouth.’