The Irishman who will take charge of Scotland’s track and field team at Glasgow 2014 next summer believes Kilmarnock will provide the perfect pre-Games 2014 platform for athletes – because he doesn’t want them to prepare in a bubble.
Stephen Maguire is delighted with an agreement which will make the Ayrshire Athletics Arena a ‘base camp’ for athletes before they compete at Hampden during the Commonwealths.
Scottishathletics, East Ayrshire Leisure and East Ayrshire Athletics Partnership are involved in the plan in association with Commonwealth Games Scotland.
And Maguire wants top stars like Eilidh Child, Eilish McColgan and Jamie Bowie to have community involvement with local clubs like Kilmarnock Harriers and Ayr Seaforth as part of their build-up.
‘One thing I didn’t want to set-up in advance of the Games was a situation whereby athlete were being ‘locked away’ from the Scottish public in a hotel for a couple of weeks,’ said Maguire.
‘I don’t think that kind of living in a bubble training camp is advantageous ahead of a major tournament and all the excitement that generates..
‘There will be a lot of enthusiasm and passion for Team Scotland in the final few days before the Commonwealth Games next summer and you want to feed off that to an extent.
‘Obviously there will be times when athletes need to focus hard and will be training on their own, in groups or just with their own coach.
‘But, at other times, I want to see some community involvement and we’re talking to East Ayrshire Leisure about that for next July and perhaps linking up with youngsters involved in East Ayrshire Leisure’s summer athletics camps, that kind of thing.’
The athletes will move into the Village in Glasgow’s East End immediately prior to competing in their events.
Long jumper, Sarah Warnock, can’t wait for 2014 to start with an exciting year ahead for the 2013 Scottish champion.
Warnock started the calendar year adrift of the qualifying standard required for Glasgow 2014 but a series of Personal Best jumps put her in the frame and she was duly among the ‘early’ selections by Team Scotland back in September.
And she has important club duties ahead with Edinburgh AC as well as her looming international duty in Scotland kit.
‘It is going to be a big year for obvious reasons,’ said Warnock.
‘The Games are catching the imagination of the Scottish public as we have all seen from the ticket sales and thankfully my family and friends have now managed to get them for the long jump qualifying rounds.
‘Before that I will be involved in a European Clubs event in May with Edinburgh AC. We won the British Women’s League this year to qualify and it was a great achievement for a Scottish club.
‘We’re heading to Portugal for that one and then, not long afterwards, thoughts will turn towards Glasgow 2014. It is so exciting and I think being based at the Ayrshire Athletics Arena in Kilmarnock will really keep us connected with the public.
‘The facilities at the track look excellent and I think it is a good idea that there will be some community involvement, too.’
Jon Doig, Team Scotland Chef De Mission, added: ‘We are pleased to confirm that the plans for the final part of Team Scotland track and field preparations have now been made and we think this base in Kilmarnock is ideal for our needs.
‘It is important to us that the whole of Scotland gets behind the team and feels part of the Games and initiatives like this are ideal for fostering that support.’
The impressive Ayrshire Athletics Arena was built at a cost of close to £7m to East Ayrshire Council and staged the scottishathletics West District Championships last May as well as a range of other regional and national track and field events that featured on the 2013 athletics calendar.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council and Chair of East Ayrshire Leisure said: “We’re delighted that the Ayrshire Athletics Arena has been chosen as Team Scotland’s base for the Commonwealth Games and is not only testament to the incredible facilities we have on offer but also the dedication and professionalism of our staff based there.
“Legacy is very important to our Council, we are really looking forward to welcoming all the athletes and are keen to start discussions about them becoming involved in events with our local communities so they can inspire our young people to be future sporting stars.”
*This weekend, on Saturday 7 December, the Arena will be the base for the West District Cross Country championships – with hundreds of athletes from across the region descending on Kilmarnock for eagerly-awaited races from U13 to seniors and veterans.