Dedicated Dozen – photo montage by Bobby Gavin
When Eilidh Doyle first picked up a GB and NI vest, she occasionally had to play ‘spot the Scot’ when the team gathered for international competition.
For a period, Lee McConnell was usually her only fellow countrywomen – and the men were marked completely absent.
Now, as British Champion Doyle prepares for her second Olympics, she will be joined in Rio by at least 11 other Scots with the representations on Team GB and NI currently sitting at a 44-year high since 12 were selected for Munich back in 1972.
British Champs gold medallist Andrew Butchart spoke after his 5000m win in Birmingham about a ‘domino effect’ sweeping through Scottish athletes to inspire and motivate better performances. And Eilidh is in full agreement.
‘It will be brilliant to be part of such a big Scottish contingent,’ said Eilidh.
‘When I first represented Britain it really was myself and Lee McConnell. And that was it sometimes. Lee was someone I really looked up to but now there are so many of us going to be there.
‘It started in April when you saw the guys in the marathon getting in and then Beth Potter followed that on. You were seeing that happen and thinking ‘I just want to get my own selection sorted out’.
‘Then, come Birmingham, and Andrew Butchart made it on the Saturday and then Sunday was a wee bit special for all the Scots involved. It is brilliant.
There definitely is a domino effect going on. It seems achievable when others make it and that’s key in inspiring others and motivating them to chase selection.
‘I think it is following on from Glasgow 2014. So many athletes experienced that and felt how amazing it was and now they want a bit more for themselves again and want an Olympic place.
‘You start to see others doing well and you both want it for yourself and think that if such-and-such an athlete can achieve it then why can’t you. A lot of us know each other over the years from teams and training camps and competitions and that helps and you have social media now which connects people.’
Lynsey Sharp believes Glasgow 2014 was a big factor.
‘I really do think it is the Glasgow effect,’ said the 800m runner, who claimed silver at Hampden in the Glasgow 2014 Games.
‘Everyone saw at the Commonwealth Games how it was possible for us to compete on the world stage and we are probably still inspired by having had that experience in our own back yard.
‘Not only are there people who I have grown up with in the sport – like Eilish McColgan and Chris O’Hare – but there are people coming through like Andrew Butchart.
‘There are people a few years below me who have risen to the occasion and who will be on that plane. It is good for the sport.’
Boston-based O’Hare, who has medals indoor and outdoors at the European Champs, credits Doyle with being a ‘pathfinder’ for others.
‘If you look back a few years it was mainly Eilidh and Lee McConnell,’ said Chris.
‘Eilidh really has given us all a belief that Scots are just as good as anyone and we can compete.
‘Hopefully this generation at the Rio Olympics can show younger athletes what is possible and then we will have even more come 2020.’
Chris O’Hare – Eilidh has shown others the pathway
It was a third successive British Champs gold medal for Doyle as she confirmed her own place for Rio.
‘It was a case of job done. I think in terms of the Olympic sports, athletics is one of the later ones with the qualifying process still open. So there has been that feeling of waiting for it to be sorted.
‘You had people asking you ‘Are you going to Rio?’ and you are saying back ‘All being well, I should be . . .’
‘So it was a wee bit difficult. I had the times but you need that top two finish, as well. Now I can go and read up all the emails marked ‘Rio’ and do so content that I’m going there and not tempting fate!
‘When I went to London 2012 I must admit it overwhelmed me a bit. It felt such a big deal to be at the Olympics.
But I’ve come through a few different experiences since then – the home crowd at Glasgow 104, being favourite for the Europeans in Zurich and that kind of thing and hopefully it all sets me up for Brazil.
‘They don’t give away Olympic medals easily, but I’m going to try to fight for one.’
With thanks to Getty Images/British Athletics for photos and Team Scotland’s Gillian Cooke for help with the video interview