Child’s mental strength impresses thrilled father

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Eilidh Child’s father has revealed his deep sense of pride at the 400m hurdler’s stellar season.

But it is not just the four major medals in 2014 at World Indoors, Commonwealth Games and European Championships and a maiden title win at the British Champs which pleases Ronnie Child, a former policeman from Kinross.

It’s the mental strength displayed by his daughter at Hampden and Zurich that really thrilled Eilidh’s proud dad.

‘I am happy for Eilidh on how she has run and the medals she has won but I think actually we’re proud of her most for the way she has handled it all,’ said Ronnie.

‘There’s been an expectation on her over the past couple of years as her performances improved and she represented Team GB. And, with the Commonwealth Games being in Scotland, there was always going to be hype for home athletes with medal chances.

‘But Eilidh accepted all that and took it on board with a mature approach.

‘She always stressed she couldn’t control what others might do in a race – she just wanted to make sure she gave a performance she was happy with and she did that this season.

‘We are very proud of her. I am totally biased, of course, but I think she’s such a nice girl in the way she conducts herself. She hasn’t forgotten where she has come from, put it that way, and she makes a point of remembering people and acknowledging their help along the way.

‘We are so pleased for her because she has put in the miles over the years in training.’

The Scot has been nominated for European Athlete of the Year as one of a dozen short-listed for the women’s award.

She is the only Brit in the female category with votes to be cast by October 3 via the website www.european-athletics.org

In addition to the medals mentioned, Child finished second in the prestigious Diamond League standings for the season to Hampden gold medallist, Jamaican hurdler Kaliese Spencer, and was second in the IAAF World Challenge event in Marrakech in September as Spencer won again.

‘It has been a long road to this point, it always is in athletics,’ said Ronnie, with his daughter now 27 and involved in the sport for 15 years.

‘I was actually quite a keen athletics fan in terms of spectating when the girls were very young and when Eilidh ‘chose’ athletics over swimming I was quite pleased. She was very good at both sports and kept them both going for a while.

‘I remember she won the Primary Scottish Schools Cross Country and around the same time she won 50m breast-stroke national title at the Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.

‘We have a photo at home of Eilidh at that time holding up a pair of running spikes in one hand and a pair of swimming goggles in another . . .

‘It was her sister, Iona, who first introduced her to hurdling. They were both good at cross country and Iona became involved with Pitreavie AAC.

‘Eilidh would come along to training as well and started jumping makeshift hurdles created with canes stretched between two cones. Iona showed her how to do it and that was it all started.

‘For a period, Eilidh would do sprint hurdles and the 800m. That went on for a while and then there was a decision taken to merge it into the 300m hurdles up until 17 and then the 400m hurdles. She did very well at 300m hurdles and I believe still holds age group records and British schools, as well.’

Child was back at her club, Pitreavie AAC, recently for a training session and is a firm supporter of the club structure in Scotland as the main part of the pathway for wannabe top athletes.

Her father spoke to PB, the quarterly magazine for 11,000 members of scottishathletics, and the governing body have now invited him to address their Youth Academy later this month – with coaches and parents due to attend as well as the best teenagers in the 16-17 year bracket.

Meanwhile, new Director of Coaching Rodger Harkins has urged volunteer coaches at Scotland’s 140 amateur clubs to improve their knowledge so they can help nurture develop the next Eilidh Child.

Harkins, who himself coached Lee McConnell to a string of top medals and three appearances at the Olympics, was delighted almost 300 Scottish coaches recently attended a National Coaching Conference at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.

The next stage are ‘Event Group’ day sessions for throws, jumps, speed and endurance through the winter.

Harkins, who has replaced Irishman Stephen Maguire, said: ‘You cannot coach in isolation. You need to get into an exchange of ideas to help stimulate you. Basically, there’s nothing better than receiving confirmation on things from others as well as sharing your own thoughts.

‘I can see relationships being built now within the coaching community and, hopefully, with scottishathletics. Once you get to know another coach a bit better, you can start to challenge each other. You can’t do that with strangers.

‘There’s a bit of consistency now on the issues we’re presenting, the messages that are being put out and even some of the people presenting.

‘I would urge people to come along to the Event Specific Coach Development days that we have arranged in October, December and March. Those are the next steps on the coaching journey and we see them as significant on the learning curve.’

*The Scottish Half Marathon Championships take place this weekend via the Great Scottish Run and conclude the scottishathletics Road Race Grand Prix series. Tewolde Mengisteab of Shettletson Harriers and Jennifer Emsley of Central AC, who set a new course record for women at the Loch Ness Marathon last Sunday, lead the way in the race for £750 each as part of the £4000 prize-money pot.