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A grand cast for an epochal show

THE largest team ever selected for a Commonwealth Games should provide ample opportunity to inspire a nation intent on making a name for itself on the eve of a potential historic political watershed.

Team Scotland members at Stirling Castle yesterday
Team Scotland members at Stirling Castle yesterday

The additional 102 competitors from eight sports who were named yesterday bring the total selected to 310. In Delhi four years ago it was 198, and 94 of them (including 15 medallists) have graduated to the class of 2014. The 35 who have previously competed in the Youth Games confirms the latter's development value.

The biggest team has a record medal target of 34: a significant ask. It is eight more than Delhi and one more than the previous best, an inflated 33 achieved at boycott-stricken Edinburgh in 1986. There are, however, far more medal opportunities now.

Since 1986, seven team sports have been introduced and three will feature in Glasgow. Sports for elite athletes with a disability are now included, 22 events in total - a record number which enhances the legacy of the London Paralympics.

Triathlon has been introduced. Swimming has 44 events compared to 30 in 1986; athletics has three new events: pole vault, hammer and steeplechase for women.

Though it is a moot point whether the team is larger in real terms, it is beyond debate that women feature more than ever before. They outnumber men in athletics (31-27) for the first time, and overall have 46% of the team total, up 3% on Delhi. That is to be applauded. At the first edition in 1930 there were four women in Scotland's team - all swimmers. A year earlier women had gained full emancipation in Britain.

Opposition for Scottish athletes in Glasgow will be formidable. World 800m record-holder David Rudisha has been named in Kenya's team and James Magut, defending 1500m bronze medallist, is world No.5 this year with a best of 3:30.61. The three Scots chosen for this distance will be under no illusions as the enormity of the challenge. World finalist Chris O'Hare has a fastest of 3:35.37, with Dave Bishop on 3:39.27 and Jake Wightman (son of scottishathletics former chief executive) at 3:41.40.

Spare a thought for Mark Mitchell at this distance. Having achieved the standard, he misses out. Ditto Kimberley Reed in the hammer, while Freya Ross (marathon) and Roger Skedd (decathlon) had to withdraw through injury.

Stories of inspiration to fire a nation abound. Seonaid McIntosh joins her sister, double Delhi gold medallist Jennifer, in the shooting team. Their mum, Shirley was also a gold medallist, while dad, Donald, shot for Scotland and will be on the management team at Barry Buddon.

European 800m champion Lynsey Sharp is the daughter of sprinter Cameron (gold and three bronze from three Games) and Carol Sharp, former Scottish two-lap champion. Diver James Heatly is the grandson of multiple diving gold medallist Sir Peter Heatly, and has a synchro victory over Tom Daly on his cv.

Gold-medal bowlers Alex Marshall and Margaret Letham (oldest in the team at 58) compete in their fifth Games. Youngest is Para-swimmer, 13-year-old Erraid Davies from Shetland. She displaces diver Grace Reid, 14 years and 5 months when she competed in 2010. Reid, from Edinburgh, is back again.

In wrestling, identical twins Donna and Fiona Roberston are chosen at the age of 45. They will be in the same weight category, so could face one another.

Both chef de mission Jon Doig and Michael Cavanagh spoke yesterday of the "tough standards" required to gain selection. For many sports this is undoubtedly true but, as we have observed, some athletics standards are inferior to those in 2002 when just two medals were forthcoming.

Scotland's last track and field gold was in 1990. Swimming has since delivered nine. Given the sums spent, there needs to be greater accountability. Failure to deliver this time will surely impact on funding. It will be a long time before there are comparable resources.

It is sobering to reflect that the forthcoming referendum could make this the last Commonwealth Games as we know it. Independence would make the Olympics of greater relevance. Politicising these Games is to be lamented, though perhaps inevitable, but beating the drum of independence ideology will screw no more effort from those wearing the Scottish vest. Politicians who play that card are self-servingly selfish. "Doing it for the jersey" is mostly rhetoric. Athletes are also selfish. They have to be, and compete primarily for themselves.

Most important of all, those considering preening themselves in new blazers should reflect that the job is not even half done. What they do in competition is what they will be remembered for. Not something hanging in a wardrobe.

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