WHEN two-time Paralympic silver medallist and former world champion Libby Clegg stepped out to compete in Glasgow exactly a year ago, there was a glaringly empty space in the blocks next to her.
Watching from the sidelines was her guide runner Mikail Huggins, an anguished expression on his face, after being forced to pull out of the event due to a hamstring injury.
Running alone, Clegg finished in third and final place overall with Terezinha Guilhermina (BRA) taking the victory and Hanka Kolnikova (SVK) in second.
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"I was so disappointed and disheartened for Libby that I wasn't able to run," said Huggins. "I felt I'd let her down. I know how much she depends on me, but the fact she went out there anyway and ran on her own shows the sheer determination Libby has. She is a fighter."
Scottish sprinter Clegg, 23, suffers from the deteriorating eye condition Stargardt Macular Dystrophy, giving her only slight peripheral vision on her left side. She is registered blind.
For the past three years, Huggins, 30, has been by her side, the reassuring voice in Clegg's ear as she clinched silver in the T12 100m at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He took up the role after his stepfather Lincoln Asquith, who was Edinburgh-based Clegg's guide when she won silver in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, retired.
Clegg and Huggins will compete as part of the first ever Scotland team at the Sainsbury's Glasgow International Match at Emirates Arena tomorrow, lining-up in the T11/12/13 60m in a field that includes veteran British sprinter and six-time Paralympic medallist Tracey Hinton and 15-year-old rising star Erin McBride, who took bronze in IPC Athletics World Championships last summer.
With Clegg among the first 27 athletes to confirm their place in Team Scotland for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it will provide a key dress rehearsal in front of a sell-out home crowd. Fresh from a warm weather training camp in South Africa, Huggins said they both felt in great shape and were "raring to go".
While born and bred in Birmingham, Huggins said he was "excited" about being part of the Scottish side, adding that sentiment also extended to Glasgow 2014.
"I've found out I will have to wear a kilt [at the Commonwealth Games]," he laughed. "I see it as embracing the Scottish culture and I'm looking forward to that. We did sit down and talk about it because Libby wanted to know how I felt, but I've never thought about it as being a negative. I know how important it is to Libby to run in Scotland colours and that makes it a big thing for me too."
When it comes to Glasgow 2014, there is no doubting their shared ambition and unwavering focus. "Libby is tired of getting silver and I'm tired of her being in that situation," said Huggins. "We are optimistic for the Commonwealth Games. You can't take anything away from the other competitors, but I know that with the commitment and hard work we have been putting in we are going for that gold medal.
"I've never competed in a Commonwealth Games before and for it to be in Scotland, with Libby's heritage, that is even better. It will be a different experience to London, but every bit as exciting."
n Sainsbury's Glasgow International Match is live on BBC One, Saturday, from 1.45pm.