Leading women may act as a spur – Scottish Athletics

6th March 2012
Liz McColgan believes greater equality in sport has led to half-a-dozen women becoming the best-known names in athletics in Scotland.

While a Scotsman featuring in the Great Britain lineup at London 2012 looks an outside bet, there are currently realistic hopes for the likes of Lee McConnell, Eilidh Child, Eilish McColgan, Lynsey Sharp and Steph Twell.

It has led BBC Scotland to look at the ‘Girl Power’ issue in their Sport Nation programme to be screened on Tuesday evening with scottishathletics chief executive Nigel Holl feeling sure our leading women can act as an inspiration for talented young men. Track legend Liz argues there is a simple explanation.

‘There is equality in the sport now and that is a major difference,’ said Olympic silver medallist McColgan.

‘When myself and Yvonne Murray were running 20 years ago it was not like that. When I started out, women were not allowed to run more than 3000 metres. Now everyone is doing 10ks and marathons. And that has happened in a period of around 20 years.

‘So I really do feel that what has changed is the equality of the sport itself which has made it more accessible for women and given them a platform to be successful.’

McColgan, McConnell and Sharp were interviewed for the Sport Nation programme while Holl told BBC Scotland he expects a number of promising male athletes to fulfil their potential soon – including the likes of Chris O’Hare, Guy Learmonth, Tom Holligan, Jax Thoirs, Gregor MacLean, Dave Smith, Allan Smith, Mark Dry – in various disciplines.

‘Some of our biggest names are female at the moment,’ said Holl. ‘They deserve credit for that. they are right up there in Scottish rankings and British rankings and hopefully at some point the world rankings.

‘The likes of Eilish and Lynsey are young athletes. There is a lot of scope for them to develop. But it is not exactly bad news on the male front. If you look at our throwers then Andy Frost, Chris Bennett and Mark Dry are rated in the top five in the Commonwealth last summer.
‘Role models are important. If Liz McColgan wasn’t a positive role model for Eilish then I’d be worried … And Lynsey has them within her family – through her mum, her dad and her sister.

‘I think Kelly Holmes and Sally Gunnell have probably been role models for these young women as much as anyone because it is a bit nearer to their time. But the likes of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah will be an inspiration to young athletes around the world at the moment and I don’t think Scotland is any different to that.

‘I am not sure it would be fair to say the men can learn from the women any more than they can learn from other elite athletes. They probably know what is required, anyway. The ‘Girl Power’ names definitely have the talent, the application and the attitude required but I genuinely believe we’ve a few more who have those qualities as well.

‘It is not a sport where men and women compete against each other. Maybe at primary school or in a fun run later on but that is about it. I think in early-teens the two sexes become focused on their own events – there’s no real head-to-head competition. The community of athletics in Scotland is supportive of our top women – and the men.

‘I suspect Scotland has always had a good number of ‘Junior Talent’ coming through – and I happen to think we’re even better off in that department than we have been for some time. The real challenge is converting that into quality senior athletes. Not every single one will make it. That’s not possible but it is the job ofscottishathletics, clubs, individual coaches and the sportscotland Institute of Sport to increase the ‘conversion rate’.

‘The likes of Lee McConnell and Eilidh Child have come through over the past few years but we want to see a few more.’

The Sport Nation programme also has a feature on Thom Evans following his sprinting debut at the Scottish National Indoor Championships in February when he finished fourth in the 60 metres finals.

*Sport Nation is on BBC Two Scotland on Tuesday 6th March at 7pm.

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