Harkins excited to see a Scottish team line up at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow International

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The man charged with leading Scottish track and field athletes to the next Commonwealth Games in 2018 believes the road to the Gold Coast starts in Glasgow in January.

Rodger Harkins, who coached Lee McConnell to three appearances at the Olympics, is now director of coaching with the governing body, scottishathletics.

And Harkins is excited about the opportunity afforded a Scotland team in the Glasgow international match at the Emirates Arena on January 24.

International athletics has been a fixture in the city for the past 25 years but it was only early in 2014 – with the Commonwealth Games looming – that Scotland landed a slot as a team, rather than one or two athletes competing for Team GB and NI or a Commonwealth Select.

Now the ‘experiment’ will be repeated with Scotland facing their British counterparts as well as France and Germany in what is an ideal opportunity for members of the Glasgow 2014 team and some youngsters eyeing Gold Coast 2018 to make their mark.

‘We’re delighted to once again be fielding a Scotland team at the Glasgow international,’ said Harkins

‘There is a long history of the event staging international athletics in Glasgow early in the New Year and it was exciting in 2014 when that involved Scottish athletes as a national side for the first time.

‘It was a day people will remember as featuring some very good performances and event wins by the likes of Chris O’Hare, Laura Muir, Guy Learmonth, Libby Clegg and Stef Reid. Looking back, it was a pretty good day for our athletes and coaches.

‘Just as importantly, it gave a number of athletes who had never appeared on the international stage their first experience of that kind of platform.

‘I think that’s one of the attractions of the 2015 event for us – we’re able to offer an opportunity to compete at a higher level to between 20 and 30 Scottish athletes, depending on the events on the programme.

‘I see it as a chance for some of the Commonwealth Games team from Glasgow and probably some of the younger ones who are already setting their sights on Gold Coast 2018.

‘You have to have that kind of ambition in sport – but you also need opportunities along the way to learn and develop.

This fixture is against Team GB and NI, France and Germany and we will have people involved who have never competed against athletes of that calibre.

‘More often than not, the Loughborough International match has been our only annual competition opportunity as Team Scotland (in the years other than those with a Commonwealth Games).

‘But there are a number of elements involved in that with the likes of Loughborough Uni, British Unis and GB Juniors having a call on Scottish athletes which tends to fragment our team a little bit.

‘We will clearly be working closely with British Athletics on the programme for the Glasgow International and the timelines which may dictate some selection issues.

‘In due course, we will let people know but in the meantime I wish the very best of luck to those athletes and coaches who are putting a focus on an indoor season with this as a key opportunity within that for some.’

Meanwhile, scottishathletics chief executive Nigel Holl was pleased to see no fewer than 15 Scots this week land places on the World Class Performance Programme announced by UK Athletics and funded by the National Lottery.

It is a rise of three athletes on the figure from 12 months ago and, back in 2012, Scotland only had seven athletes deemed worthy of centralised funding at this level.

New names like David Smith, Jake Wightman, Jo Butterfield and 15-year-old Para athlete, Maria Lyle, have been added to the established stars like Lynsey Sharp, Eilidh Child, Chris O’Hare, Libby Clegg and Mark Dry (the five Scottish medallists at the Commonwealths and Europeans last summer).

Holl said: ‘After a summer with many of our athletes in the spotlight, an increase in the numbers of Scottish athletes being recognised and supported by UKA at Podium and Potential level is excellent news.

‘It is what we would have hoped to see; and a huge testament to them and their coaches/support teams.

‘I believe our role in performance in Scotland is to do what we can to support Scottish athletes to the stage where they merit being picked up by UKA – we are now focusing that work and identify it as ‘Performance Foundation’. This is integrated across Para and mainstream athletics and it’s good to see strong Scottish representation across both the Para and Olympic programmes run by UKA.

‘The increasing representations is consistent with the young Scottish team who were selected and performed at Glasgow 2014 – we said then the future looks promising, and I hold that view.’

*Tickets for Glasgow International at www.britishathletics.org.uk