Watching Eilidh Child competing at the Sainsbury’s Athletics Meet in Glasgow back in January, I didn’t think that I would be chatting to her a few days later. A rising star in track and field athletics, Child is down to earth and excited about having the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. Glasgow Guardian got to chat to her about the build up to the Commonwealth Games, how she followed her sister to training, and how Scottish athletes like Laura Muir and Chris O’Hare are becoming role models alongside that of Usain Bolt and David Beckham.
Guardian: How did you get into athletics?
Child: My older sister Iona was a very good athlete; she ran the Scottish Championships cross country race for school, and she won it. After the race someone came up to her and asked: ‘What club do you run for?’ and she said ‘I don’t run for a club’ at which point they said ‘why don’t you come and run for us?’ That was the local club in Dunfermline and I went along to keep her company. I tried a bit of everything when I was there, a little bit of long distance running, cross country, long jump; my sister Iona tried the hurdles and I tried it too and it turned out that I was quite good at it – it just went on from there. A lot of my athletics is down to my big sister, she was the one who set me on my way.
Guardian: What is your role in the Commonwealth Games?
Child: I have already been selected to compete in the 400m hurdles, and then our 4x400m team has been selected as well. Outside of that, it is just to keep promoting it because it’s such a huge thing for Scottish sport and it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to represent Scotland in athletics as we normally run for Great Britain. It’s our own chance to celebrate our own little nation.
Guardian: What do you think the Commonwealth Games will do for Glasgow?
Child: The Games will definitely bring the tourism in, and we’re also seeing some of the major facilities that they’re starting to build as a result as well like the Velodrome, and the Emirates Arena which are great facilities to have. It’s bringing a lot more attention to Glasgow and the whole ‘sporty’ side of it. You’ve also got a lot on at all the different venues around Glasgow, various different events, with Celtic Park for the opening ceremony and Hamden for the athletics. All these iconic images are going to be seen more worldwide, rather than just known in Scotland, so that’s really encouraging.
Guardian:What do you think the best thing will be about Commonwealth Games being in Glasgow?
Child: The whole atmosphere; the Scots like a bit of a party and I think that’s going to be the whole idea of it, and that’s what I want to enjoy about it, I want to embrace it all and take it all in. I obviously want to go and perform well but, as people are getting so excited about it, they’re saying to me ‘are you getting nervous?’ and I’m just like, well no, because I want to enjoy it in the same way with everyone else. The whole experience, the opening ceremony, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hopefully through the legacy, we can inspire youngsters to be the next swimmers, the next athletes, even some of the next badminton players; there are some sports that are going to be shown here which aren’t necessarily as popular as other things.
Guardian: Do you think the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics will help the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow?
Child: I don’t think anyone expected the Olympics to be as huge as it was, I mean the whole country really rallied round. I think after it was over in the UK, and especially in Scotland, we thought it’s not quite over yet, we have another big games to look forward to so we can get excited about that. I just hope that it has the same effect that London has, and I think that it might because a lot of it is already sold out and the athletics competition on the weekend [the January Athletics Meet] was sold out which doesn’t normally happen. Athletics isn’t as popular in Scotland as other sports so it’s really encouraging.
Guardian: How is the build up effecting you as a team of athletes?
Child: [The large crowds] were a real test at the weekend [at the Sainsbury’s Athletics Meet), because a lot of the athletes had never been exposed to that. As I was captain for that team, I said to them ‘There’s no more motivation that I can give to you than to remind you what Glasgow is going to be in six months time with the Commonwealth Games’. If that doesn’t motivate them I don’t know what will. It has really given everyone a huge boost and the nice thing is now you’re starting to hear Scottish names and Scottish athletes becoming role models, as opposed to Usain Bolt, David Beckham, you’re now including Chris O’Hare and Laura Muir amongst those role models.
Guardian: How did you find it being captain?
Child: I was in one of the first events and one of the last events, so it meant that in between I was able to go and see how everyone was getting on. and I got far more involved that I expected to be. I got really excited to see the likes of Laura Muir do well and watching their reactions as they crossed the line and seeing them stepping up and performing. As a small team, the morale was high, and we just built up each other and it was really nice to see everyone stepping up their games.
Guardian: How does it feel within the Scottish athletics team at the moment?
Child: We’re in a really good place at the moment, and I think we’re probably in one of the best places we’ve been in terms of a governing body and in terms of athletes in Scotland, so it’s a really good place to be. Everybody at the weekend was genuinely really supportive of each other, and I think everybody just wanted each other to do well, and for all of us to be part of this Commonwealth experience so that we can enjoy it together. The Scotland team is always quite small, and you do tend to know everybody on the team because you’ve raced each other all the time and you’ve come through the ranks together; it’s got this really nice friendly atmosphere where you do really want each other to do well.
Guardian: Do you find it strange competing against your teammates from GB?
Child: You kind of just switch off when you go to race; you forget who you’re running against and just concentrate on what you have to do and what you’re job is at the end of the day. You just switch that part off and then see them as someone you want to beat and then when you cross the line you go back to friends and that’s just the way it is.