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Face of the Games ready to conquer poster-girl pressure

If ever proof were required that being the face of the Commonwealth Games means nothing once the sport actually starts, then Eilidh Child need look no further than Michael Jamieson.

Eilidh Child felt comfortable with the expectations surrounding her as she won her opening 400m hurdles heat with ease.  Picture: Nick Ponty
Eilidh Child felt comfortable with the expectations surrounding her as she won her opening 400m hurdles heat with ease. Picture: Nick Ponty

Child and Jamieson have been the poster girl and boy of Glasgow 2014 and while that brings many perks, it also brings an incredible pressure. The gold medal which was anticipated for Jamieson on day one of the Games did not materialise and Child faces a similarly tough task to claim victory.

Child began her campaign in emphatic fashion yesterday, winning her 400m hurdles heat in 55.56 seconds but it was her demeanour as opposed to her time which was most impressive. Child has a monumental weight on her shoulders; she has carried the expectations of the nation in the build-up to these Games, despite the fact that the Scot is not, on paper at least, favourite to win gold­ - that tag goes to Jamaica's Kaliese Spencer.

However, as the first week of Glasgow 2014 has proved, the boost the home crowd can give Scottish athletes is immeasurable. The fans gave Child a rousing welcome yesterday, forcing the 27 year-old to break from her normal pre-race routine. "A lot of the time I don't wave to the crowd [before the race] because I like to try and focus," she said. "But it was such a big cheer, I couldn't not wave to the fans."

Child coped with the occasion impeccably. The Scot led from the first hurdle to the finish line and could afford to ease down in the home straight. There were no sign of nerves, though the Scot admitted that appearances may have been deceiving. "I might have looked like I was calm but I don't know if I was calm on the inside. I just wanted to concentrate on my own race and I think I managed to do that," she said. "I was really glad to get started. I wanted to come out and get this race out of the way, put in a solid performance and blow the cobwebs away."

In the aftermath of the race, Child had an air of satisfaction at a job well done mixed with a recognition that she is likely to have to run faster than she ever has before if she wants to win gold in the final tomorrow evening. "If I want to do something, I'm going to have to break my PB," she said. "The crowd can give me that extra kick though, especially up the home straight. It's going to be pretty close and you know that's when mistakes can happen - when you put pressure on each other. For me to have that roar can give me that extra edge, especially when the legs are dying coming up the home straight."

So far, Child has coped admirably with the expectation and now she has just one more race to negotiate. She seems comfortable with her form, with the pressure exerted upon her and with the home crowd environment.

"It's about not letting it all affect me," she said. "I just need to go out on Thursday and do what I do."

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