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Athletics: Child learns lesson after Olympics nerves

THIS time two years ago, Eilidh Child could feel the butterflies in her stomach not so much gently flutter- ing as swarming in an ever growing rabble.

Eilidh Child is determined to enjoy everything about the Commonwealth Games
Eilidh Child is determined to enjoy everything about the Commonwealth Games

After battling fierce nerves at London 2012, the Kinross-shire hurdler made herself a promise: when it came to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, she would relish every moment.

"For me, London was overwhelming and I couldn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to," says Child. "I have got more of a laid-back attitude to Glasgow and I don't feel as intense or nervous as I did going into the Olympics.

"I love athletics and have great fun doing it, so it's about remembering that. I think perhaps if I hadn't had the Olympics I might be getting worked up about the Commonwealth Games, but I feel relaxed and just really want to enjoy it."

But don't mistake Child's calm demeanour for complacency. The 27-year-old is already sizing up her main rivals in the women's 400m hurdles.

"A lot of people are stepping up their game," she says. "For me, the biggest rival is the Jamaican Kaliese Spencer because she has been ranked No 1 in the world this year. She has a PB of 52 seconds - almost two seconds quicker than mine. She is the big threat for me.

"There is a South African athlete [Wenda Theron Nel] who is running well at the moment and also Meghan Beesley from England. It's going to be tough. There is definitely going to be a lot of people fighting for the medals."

One name missing from that list is English athlete Perri Shakes-Drayton who was forced to quit hurdles after sustaining a serious knee injury at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Child admits she misses having her long-term rival by her side, spurring her on.

"It's a bit strange," she says. "Every year it's been the two of us: that's our big head-to-head. We do bring out the best in each other when we race. It's a shame not to have her there."

She believes that the absence of Shakes-Drayton, however, may provide an opportunity for upcoming English hurdler Beesley to shine.

"The thing with Meghan is she's perhaps been a little overshadowed, but she's been plugging away the last few years," says Child. "Meghan has gone full time which I think will make a big difference to her training. She will be wanting to get something at the Commonwealth Games too."

Child, who is competing at the Sainsbury's British Championships in Birmingham this weekend, can testify to the marked improvements that training full time can bring. She receives support from the National Lottery which helps provide coaches, physiotherapists, technical support, facilities and equipment. "It's been brilliant because it has allowed me to leave my job [as a part-time PE teacher] and move to Bath," she says. "That has been the huge t urning point in my career, not only being a full-time athlete but being able to train with my coach Malcolm Arnold and the rest of the squad there."

Before the Commonwealth Games comes the opportunity of a dress rehearsal at Hampden Park with Child, a silver medallist in Delhi 2010, due to compete in the Sainsbury's Glasgow Grand Prix - part of the IAAF Diamond League - in a fortnight.

"It's little things like knowing where the call-up room is, what the warm-up track is like - even where the toilets are," she says. "You get a feel for what the atmosphere is going to be like rather than being thrown in the deep end and going straight into the Games. Hopefully it's going to be really beneficial to get a trial run."

Kinross-shire is a corner of Scotland that has not only produced the talents of Child, but 800m and 1500m runner Laura Muir, one of the Sunday Herald's Six To Follow to Glasgow 2014. The pair have become close, having clicked while rooming together at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.

"Laura is the nicest person you could meet," she says. "We both come from Kinross, this tiny little place. I've only really got to know her over the past year but we've become good friends. I love seeing her doing so well."

But don't expect any rollicking behaviour. "We are pretty boring," says Child, laughing. "Laura and I are both very chilled out. When we shared a room, I was hooked on Grey's Anatomy and she was watching House."

Child is yet to decide what television box-sets will accompany her into the Athletes' Village. "People have recommended shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad, but I've not had a chance to get into anything yet," she says. "I'll maybe ask Laura and see what she's got, then maybe bring a couple of choices."

Since opening her outdoor season at the Diamond League in Doha last month, where she finished third, there has been little time for home comforts with Child splitting her time between competing and her training base in Bath.

She did get leave to return to Cumbernauld, where she lives with boyfriend Brian and their dog Ben, after her elder sister Catriona had a baby last month, making Child an auntie for the first time. "I managed to get a week back home at the start of May but I've not been back since then," she says.

This weekend's action in Birmingham incorporates the official GB & NI trials for the European Championships in August. Child, however, said she has put all thoughts of a crack at a European title on hold.

"My coach and I sat down and looked at the week between the Commonwealth Games and Europeans," she says. "We have planned ahead, but it's still a bit of a wait and see depending on how I feel after the Games and how my body is recovering. I'm taking each race as it comes. It's hard to look beyond the Commonwealth Games at the moment."

o The National Lottery funds 1300 elite athletes across the UK, many of whom will be representing their home nation at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. To find out more, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk

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