Maguire excited by Scottish potential in coming years

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Stephen Maguire guided Irish sprinter Jason Smyth to double gold at the Paralympics in London two years ago – shortly before he arrived in Scotland.

Now the man charged with leading Scotland’s track and field team at Hampden in the Commonwealth Games wants athletes to seize their moment.

‘Perform when it counts,’ has become a key mantra with the governing body and Maguire sees it as his job to spend the next six weeks hammering home that message.

A massive squad of 58 was named on Thursday at Stirling Castle by Team Scotland – one more than three times as many as the 19 athletes who travelled to India for the Games in Delhi 2010.

It reflects a feel-good factor in many areas of the sport in Scotland and even the unfortunate absence of two of the five Olympians from London 2012, Freya Ross and Lee McConnell, hasn’t dimmed Maguire’s vision of meeting a formal medal target of ‘more than two’ (achieved by Scotland in track and field at the last two Games).

As selectors gathered last Sunday evening to wade through a long list of athletes having achieved the required standards, performances by Lynsey Sharp and Laura Muir Sharp in Holland pushed them into second and fourth place respectively on Scottish all-time lists for 800m and 1500m.

In current Commonwealth rankings, there are 14 Scots in the top six and there’s a significant emphasis on the NEXT Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in 2018 with no fewer than 30 of the track and field squad picked for Glasgow 2014 aged just 23 or under.

‘We are excited about the size of the team – and also the potential in the coming years,’ said Maguire

‘It is a large team and, in my opinion, it is a nice reflection on where the sport is headed in Scotland. To have 30 athletes aged 23 or under- (36 are 25 and under) – is also very encouraging for the future.

‘Athletes, coaches and clubs have responded to the publication of the standards back in April 2012 and worked very hard to try and reach their goal.

‘I would like to congratulate each and every single athlete named because we know how many years of hard work and commitment has been put in to achieve selection for Scotland.

‘If you look at the endurance events then, right across the board, we are covered in every one of them with at least one male or female athlete.

‘I believe that shows the work that has been done on endurance over a number of years. That diligence is starting to pay off and bear fruit. We are very well represented in the throws and we have some potential medallists in that event group; we’ve six high jumpers and three in pole vault.’

There are gaps in certain events – mainly sprints – and while comment continues on the standards set, it is a matter of record that 39 athletes reached the marks asked for Delhi in 2010 when only 17 did so.

‘The standards are a mechanism to get a team that we feel is worthy of representing Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in 2014,’ said Maguire, who has effectively now written off the qualification process and period to focus on the challenges ahead.

‘I think that should be stressed. The standards are the rung on the ladder – to make the step into the team.

‘Now the trick is about performing at Hampden. How are we going to get 58 people to perform on the day? That’s the hard work ahead of us now over the next six weeks.

‘We want people to prepare well and prepare properly.

‘There was a first wave with 23 athletes named and I am pretty pleased with the way that worked. I think it has proved very valuable in a number of cases. We added another four in April to take that to 27.

‘I’m not sure, when the whole process was mapped out, that anyone thought there would be another 30 plus being added!

‘For those in the early selections, there has been some time to get their heads into the right place for Glasgow 2014.

‘Now the others, some of whom were chasing qualifying standards right up to the last week or so, have to focus firmly on what is ahead.

‘We’ve basically six weeks to help people to get it right on the required day – the day they perform in front of a home crowd. They have reached a level of performance which enables them to compete. Now let’s see if we can raise the crossbar and get a number of PBs. That’s what ‘perform on the day’ is all about.

‘Clearly, it is disappointing for some of the athletes who didn’t make it for these Games.

‘We’d people on a single standard and I know how painful that will be for them. But the selection policy was written quite some time ago and had clarity. We needed two standards.

‘My message to those who have not qualified is: this is not the end. It is long season and it is only June. We need people to also perform when it counts.

‘Those athletes and coaches should be thinking: how can we be the best we can be. That might mean British Champs or Scottish Champs in August in Kilmarnock. We want to see people performing well there.’

To enter the Scottish Senior Champs at Kilmarnock on August 16/17 follow the link here

scottishathletics chief executive Nigel Holl is pleased with the dramatic rise from four years ago in numbers terms.

He said: ‘The athletics team in Delhi was 19 athletes. Two of those athletes were relay runners who had not achieved the Delhi qualification standards.

‘Of the 58 athletes selected for the Glasgow Games, 39 athletes have achieved the same Delhi standards on at least one occasion (the standards were adjusted after Delhi – as they are after every Games – using statistics across the last three Games as the basis).

‘If there is one figure that shows both the impact and inspiration of home Games, and also looks optimistically forward to the future, it is that – more than double the number of athletes achieving the same standards only four years later.

‘It is a large team and one we feel can represent Scotland in the right way at Hampden and in the marathon.

‘‘Perform on the day,’ is a key message and that’s what the performance team will be working on now with each and every one of these athletes and their coaches.

‘I want to personally congratulate all those selected and I’m sure those good wishes comes from everyone at scottishathletics and indeed all those associated with athletics in Scotland.’