Come the first of August, the continent’s top athletes will descend on Glasgow. Who is in the hunt for Gold?
Four years after Glasgow was awash with the bustle of the Commonwealth Games, the city will once more bathe in swathes of elite-level sport. The 2018 European Championships will welcome athletes from all corners of the continent to come and ply their trade in Glasgow. While the University’s own Laura Muir, along with fellow track runners Eilish McColgan and Eilidh Doyle will travel to Berlin to compete in the Athletics arm of the competition, the Tollcross International Swimming Centre, the SSE Hydro and the Emirates Arena, amongst others, will be the base for some of Europe’s top sports stars.
It’s no doubt that Glasgow City Council will hope to recreate the carnival atmosphere that was synonymous with the 2014 games. This will be the first time that the usually standalone continental championships of triathlon, aquatics, athletics, cycling, rowing and gymnastics are amalgamated and early reports concerning ticket sales are positive.
However, this will be far from the minds of the Scots competing in this year’s event. Many “home” athletes outperformed expectations earlier this year on the Gold Coast, Glasgow’s Commonwealth successor, although they will now be competing under the standard of the Union Jack. Among them, is one Grace Reid. Fresh from this year’s unexpected Commonwealth triumph in the women’s 1m springboard, Reid must be relishing the chance to compete in a diving meet that is quite literally on her front doorstep. An Edinburgh native by birth, she now has the chance to replicate the same form that earned her a gold medal in Australia, only this time in the Royal Commonwealth Pool situated in her hometown. Team GB will also be pinning hopes on Reid’s compatriot, James Heatly. He will be hoping to best the bronze he earned down under back in April in the male equivalent of the 1m springboard. Back in Glasgow, the pool at Tollcross heralds the return of local lad Duncan Scott, again returning from victory in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He joins a host of young, upcoming hopefuls that are looking to use the European Championships as a launch pad for further major success alongside the likes of BMX biker Mia Paton, gymnast Fraser Lymes and golfer Hazel Macgarvie, all of whom are still well within their teens.
Given that this is a smaller competition when compared to the likes of the Olympic Games or indeed, a World Championship, it is a fantastic chance for these young starlets to be selected and then shine. We would be remiss to forget however, that there are athletes of a genuine world-class level competing at this Summer’s Championships. The Chris Hoy Velodrome will host husband and wife duo Jason and Laura Kenny, boasting 10 Olympic gold medals between them, the former on a level standing with the Velodrome’s namesake as the most successful British Olympian of all time.
It’s not just on the banked turns of the track that Team GB have ample representation on two wheels though, with Mark Cavendish currently named to feature in the Men’s Road Race. The Manx Missile will be gunning for gold come the August 12, the flats of Glasgow Green and Byres Road seem to be the sprinter’s ideal stomping ground too. The ladies’ squad are without former World Road Race Champion Lizzie Deignan, but they do have track defector Dani Rowe leading the charge, yet another athlete who placed in the medals earlier this year in Australia. Double Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee will shoulder the vast majority of British hopes in the triathlon, although he is backed up by Glasgow-born Marc Austin, and Jess Learmonth will hope to defend her European title in the ladies’ event as the triathletes introduce themselves to Strathclyde Park. This venue will also cast watch over the rowing events, traditionally a sport in which a British outfit exceed.
This year, selectors seem to be entrusting youth. Numerous Olympians have been overlooked, including Stan Louloudis, George Nash and Helen Glover (nowadays without her retired Women’s Pair partner of Heather Stanning.) Nevertheless, Olympians Mohamed Sbihi and Will Satch do make the cut, as does reigning European Champion Vicky Thornley who will hope to take consecutive golds home in the single sculls.
Throughout all squad rotation however, one thing is for sure: this will be a rare opportunity for the British squad to prove their mettle against a reduced field. Lacking the traditional superpowers of the United States and China, there is a real hope that the British squad can do more than make good in Glasgow. For all the athletes mentioned before, there is a sense that he with most to gain will once more battle within Tollcross. Adam Peaty is a mere 23, but is in a class of his own when it comes to the 100m breaststroke. He set the World Record for the event in 2015 and has gone on to beat himself twice more. He was the first man to break the 58 second barrier and has set himself the ambitious target of going sub-57, entitling this largely internal race ‘Project 56.’ He is but a tenth away from becoming the first man to reach this milestone and hypothetically, if he does break it this time around, he will have chalked off nearly a second from his first world record. It would be no mean feat for the reigning Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth champion and he is surely the superstar athlete hailing from these shores going into Glasgow 2018.
Superstars or not, however, for all competitors awaiting the start of the games on breath unabated, they can rely on one thing: if Tuesday’s game at Parkhead was anything to go by, the class of 2018 can be ever reliant on a raucous Glasgow crowd to back them up.