Dundee Olympian Eilish McColgan has urged young athletes to be inspired by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and follow their sporting dream.
The GB international was speaking as she went back to school in her hometown along with Scottish Minister for Sport and Commonwealth Games, Shona Robison.
Scottishathletics and the Scottish Government have launched the Inspire 2014 programme, which involves leading athletes making school visits around the country in the countdown to Glasgow 2014.
McColgan, who posted an A standard time for the World Championships in Moscow in Italy last week in the 3000m steeplechase, dropped into Craigie High School and Baldragon Academy.
The UK champion told pupils about the sacrifices she has made in recent years to try and improve and revealed nerves got the better of her at London 2012, a mistake she is determined not to repeat at Hampden next year.
“Over the years I have missed a few birthday parties for friends and missed out on nights out at uni and so on but I happen to think it has been all worth it for the level I am at now in athletics,” said the 22-year-old, who has featured in the Diamond League in New York and Rome in the past few weeks.
“I am competing around the world, taking part in big events, meeting fellow athletes on the international stage and making friends. Glasgow 2014 is a big motivation and I believe it can inspire our youngsters.
“You need to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to try and learn as you go along and you can start that while still at school. It is worth remembering it is not the end of the world if your running technique isn’t perfect. Hard work can overcome a lot of things over the years.
“I used to be like Bambi on ice when I jumped a hurdle but I’m working at it all the time to improve technique. Set yourself goals and try and turn a negative into a positive.
“You have been dropped by the hockey team or the football team? How can you get back on the team? You can attend every training session, try harder and practice more to ensure you are picked again.
“I didn’t win a lot of titles and medals at school. Other girls used to win those but I don’t see them around now in the sport.
“I had a diet problem and didn’t realise it at first. I hardly ate any vegetables and didn’t eat red meat. I was anaemic and had to change a lot of things to improve my diet.
“Now I don’t drink tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. Make sure you have breakfast before you come to school. You will feel so much more awake.
“But, really, what you do at 13 and 14 is not as important as what you do at 18 or 20 so set yourself long-term goals and try and measure your own improvements rather than being devastated at losing one race.”
McColgan set an Olympic qualifying standard this time last year with a PB in Oslo and then won the UK 3000m steeplechase title in Birmingham, but London 2012 lasted only one race as she “under-performed” by her own admission.
“I completely crumbled in terms of nerves at the Olympics and I think it was a major factor in me under-performing,” added Eilish.
“Normally I don’t worry at all about racing because I just feel it is something I do every day. At the Olympics, that was different and I was so worked up I was nearly crying — and I never cry.
“I could look out from the balcony at the Olympic village and see the stadium, even though it was two or three miles away. We could hear the roars and when Jess Ennis had her name read we could hear that. Now I am working hard on keeping focused and making sure I am not too anxious.”
Under the scottishathletics programme, Scottish international athletes will tell children that talent is only a starting point in sport which can only be enhanced through hard work and effort.
* Kinross-shire’s Laura Muir is the 30th Scottish track and field athlete to post at least one qualifying standard for Glasgow 2014.
The 20-year-old UK indoor 1500m champion clocked 4.10.01 for the distance in Prague to get under the 4.10.50 required.
Muir, like McColgan a product of the Dundee Hawkhill Harriers club, even managed the time and a PB despite being bumped and almost falling during the race in the Czech Republic as Eilidh Child posted another 400m hurdles qualifying time with 55.12 seconds.