The man who will take charge of Scotland’s track and field team at Hampden believes there’s no change to the country’s medal prospects despite an ever-increasing squad.
Northern Irishman Stephen Maguire, the director of coaching with scottishathletics who is seconded by Commonwealth Games Scotland for Glasgow 2014, has been pleased with early-season results at various locations across the globe.
Those performances are raising the bar in terms of Team Scotland’s track and field presence – with the 19 athletes who went to Delhi in 2010 already looking certain to be at least doubled in Glasgow.
But Maguire, who has maintained a medal target of ‘more than two’ is fair given that is what has been achieved in Delhi and Melbourne in 2006, doesn’t see the list of contenders altering significantly before the July 23 Opening Ceremony at Celtic Park.
‘We are going to have a bigger team than anticipated which gives a broad base to help the sport move forward,’ said Maguire.
‘It is good for athletics in Scotland that so many people are achieving qualifications standards (which were set on the basis of top eight finishes at the last three Games) or are getting close to those.
‘That gives a lot of encouragement for coaches and acts as a real boost for clubs and those involved in the early development of many of our ‘stars’.
‘But in analysing things and tracking performances, I don’t see our number of medal contenders as having changed all that much at all.’
A handful of those considered to be in contention for Hampden glory, such as Eilidh Child and top Scottish hammer throwers and high jumpers, will be in action in Scotland vests at the Loughborough International event this Sunday.
The final overall squad figure will be confirmed by Commonwealth Games Scotland after the close of the qualification window on June 8.
And, although encouraged by some recent performance, Maguire is proceeding with cautious optimism.
‘It has been a good start to the season for a number of our athletes,’ he added.
‘Early season competitions are precisely that – they merely give you a signpost on how things might unfold later on. Often they show where someone might be able to get to if things go to plan.
‘I do believe the policy that enable us to name 27 athletes quite early is working. It has allowed a number of athletes and coaches and prepare in the right way – knowing they have the standards and the slots for Glasgow. It has given them breathing space to focus on being ready for the end of July – rather than becoming wrapped up in the June 8 cut-off date.
‘We now have a significant number who have a window to prepare without the pressure of selection. People like Chris O’Hare and Eilidh Child would be in that group as well as the marathon runners named the other week. They are firmly focused on the prime competition period of time at the Games and everything else is just a stepping stone.
‘Chris for example has opened up with a couple of low key races and the early part of the season is not as important now as a professional athlete as it did as a collegiate athlete.’
With Child competing in Manchester on Saturday in 200m hurdles before racing on Sunday at 400m flat and other top athletes missing Loughborough, Maguire stressed the team points scoreline on Sunday won’t be as important as individual assessments.
Top young discus thrower, Nick Percy, for example will compete at an U23 event in Halle this weekend and there are middle distance athletes involved at Watford on Saturday evening. The rules of the Loughborough event also dictate Scots like Jake Wightman actually compete against their country for their university.
‘We’re all looking forward to the Loughborough event but would stress it is early in the season for many athletes,’ said Maguire.
‘Of course when someone gets on the start-line in a Scotland vest we want them to do really well but we have purposely selected some people to use it as a preparation event.
‘Commonwealth Games has to be the target and that is still more than two months away.
‘We will have people competing at all ages and stages; some with standards and already selected; a handful still trying to make Team Scotland; and a few who are youngsters just picking up their first taste of an international event.
‘So I would emphasises that Sunday will not be about the scores in the team event – it will be about measuring where a number of people are at individually and then analysing and assessing that with their coaches.
‘We have the likes of (Stonehaven schoolgirl) Kelsey Stewart and Jack Lawrie who are in our Academy and they are going to be there.
‘Kimberley Reed (Edinburgh student) will throw for GB Juniors and rightly so because she is the No 1 in her age group in Britain at the moment. It will be nice to see her compete against her fellow Scots in that competition.
‘Some of our throwers have medal potential for the Games so of course we want to see where they are at the moment in terms of form. Can they put down a marker?
‘We are looking at all sorts of aspects when you remember there are Scots competing also for BUCS and for Loughborough who are denied to us – someone like Jake Wightman as a good example.
‘And then you have a swathe of other athletes who are elsewhere around the world. Nick Percy won’t be involved as he will be in Halle at an U23 event and we think that’s the right place for him this weekend.’
*International Sportswear Company, Kukri, have announced they will be providing the Team Scotland competition kit for the track and field athletes for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Kukri are already the ‘Official Kit Supplier’ to scottishathletics and have been since 2012. The news comes as brand Kukri sign up one of Scotland’s most successful track and field athletes of recent years, Libby Clegg, as a Kukri Athlete Ambassador.