Erin Wallace: Scottish production line shows little sign of letting up

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Erin Wallace: Scottish production line shows little sign of letting up

Scottish Athletics - Loughborough International 2017
(C)Bobby Gavin -  Byline must be used

Scottish Athletics - Loughborough International 2017 (C)Bobby Gavin - Byline must be used

Whatever Scottish athletes are putting in their porridge for breakfast, it’s obviously working a treat

Plentiful personal bests and top-8 finishes at the recent World Championships continued the definite momentum that’s been growing for three years.

Hosting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow seems to have been a real defining moment for athletics in Scotland.

The likes of Lynsey Sharp, Mark Dry and Eilidh Doyle rose to the occasion on home soil four years ago – and multiple success stories since have shown it to be no flash in the pan.

The sense of momentum is a formula the other home nations would undoubtedly love to bottle for themselves.

Punching above its weight

In a nation half the size of London, 15 Scots made the British track and field team for the Olympic Games in Rio last year – almost four times the number at London 2012 and the country’s best representation since 1972.

It’s fair to say that top-10 finishes in distances from 1500m up to the marathon pretty much carried the British track team in terms of its hopes for the future.

The sight of stars like Callum Hakwins and Andrew Butchart bridging the elite and grassroots divide by supporting domestic competition just two months after Rio further pressed home the special momentum brewing.

That Scotland continued to punch above its weight at the World Championships in London earlier this month should come as no surprise.

Scottish athletes accounted for 20% of the British team. In the middle-distance ranks especially, their prowess was more profound (39%).

All three Brits in the women’s 5,000m were Scottish. All three men that contested the 1500m came from the same club – Edinburgh AC.

The 16 athletes selected was a record for the nation – and the production line shows little sign of letting up.

Production line still going strong

Last week, rising star Erin Wallace picked up the Team Scotland Commonwealth Youth Games Inspirational Award following her superb 1500m gold in the Bahamas this summer.

The award is recognition for an athlete that is making waves in the junior rankings – and aiming to follow in the footsteps of her acclaimed compatriots.

‘Seeing all the other Scots do so well at Worlds was very inspiring,’ says last year’s European Youth Championships bronze medallist.

‘It makes you realise that people from the pathway with the same support and facilities have made it to the top, so that means I can hopefully make it too.

‘I think the momentum of lots of Scots doing well is helping inspire others to believe in themselves and do well.’

First step on the ladder

The system Scottish Athletics have put in place and the hard work delivering it is reaping rewards.

Erin is currently part of the Scottish Athletics’ National Academy Programme. The programme is the first rung on the ladder through to senior international honours and is supporting more than 30 athletes.

Most of the recent high-flyers started out on the same path which sees athletes invited and pooled into the academy once they hit the right standard or place inside the top-5 on the UK Power of 10 rankings.

Some of the benefits include regular residential camps, in which coaches and parents are also brought in and included as part of the process. Education sessions from physiotherapists, strength and conditioning experts, nutritionists and more lay the groundwork for a future elite-level career.

Proof in the pudding

The proof to the approach is in the pudding. Nine athletes in total competed across the European U20 and U23 Championships this summer. Five came home with medals.

Opportunities such as the Commonwealth Youth Games also play an invaluable part on the performance pathway.

Being exposed to the demands and expectations of major championships and racing against the world’s best at junior level can be a real eye-opener – as Erin explains.

‘The racing was at a level that I’ve never properly experienced before,’ recalls the Giffnock North AAC starlet.

‘Going into the race, I thought I had a chance of medalling as all the girls had very similar times – and 1500s are very unpredictable so you can never be sure.’

‘But at about halfway, I wasn’t so sure as the leaders seemed a long way ahead. I felt more confident as the race went on, though, and managed to catch them again towards the end.’

‘The experience was incredible. Everyone was really supportive of each other and the team atmosphere was what made the trip so much better.’

Following in esteemed footsteps

Erin follows in esteemed footsteps. A previous winner of the Commonwealth Youth Games 1500m title includes fellow Scot, Morag MacLarty, in 2004.

Erin – who also receives support from the national sports charity, SportsAid, to allow her to go on training camps and gain more elite-level experience – wasn’t able to go wild in her celebrations.

With 800m heats the next day – Erin eventually wound up sixth in the final two days later – a well-earned spell on the beach in the Bahamas had to be put on hold.

Recharged and with eyes towards the autumn and looming cross country season, Erin continues along the same path trodden by the international stars she now looks up to. She could certainly do a lot worse.

SportsAid helps the next generation of British sports stars by giving them financial support and recognition during the critical early stages of their careers. Find out about SportsAid Week 2017 and how you can get involved.

Words by Chris Rainsford
Image from Bobby Gavin