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Teen spirit inspires compatriots to go the extra mile

While the judo players were yesterday celebrating becoming the most successful ever Scottish team at a Commonwealth Games, the home nation's swimmers moved within range of reclaiming that status as three more medals were secured.

Erraid Davies wins bronze in the women's para-sport 100m breaststroke on another good day in the pool for Scotland. Picture: PA Wire
Erraid Davies wins bronze in the women's para-sport 100m breaststroke on another good day in the pool for Scotland. Picture: PA Wire

The best was perhaps saved till last as the men's 4x200m freestyle relay team of Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne, Duncan Scott and Robbie Renwick helped turn Tollcross into a cauldron once more in claiming a silver medal in the night's final race.

They had always looked like medal contenders, but the night produced real bonuses with perhaps unexpected successes from those at either end of the experience spectrum.

Just moments after 13-year-old Erraid Davies became the youngest athlete ever to win a medal at a Commonwealth Games, Hannah Miley matched her with another bronze, then said the 13-year-old's success had helped lift her beyond what she thought she might do.

"Oh God, that really inspired me," said the 24-year-old, who added that she had thought the 400m individual medley, in which she won gold on Thursday, had been her only realistic medal chance this time around. "I was cheering Erraid on in the call room, really willing her to get into a medal position. She's done it and I was so chuffed for her, and it was lovely going into that race with a big grin on my face knowing she'd done that because she's such a wee cutie, she's lovely and it's just nice for her to come to her very first Commonwealth Games and to come away with a medal."

All of which only served to demonstrate the team spirit that exists within the swimming squad and, for all that she is one of the few survivors of the Melbourne Games where the swimmers set the previous record of 12, Miley said that extends to the whole Scottish team.

"They (the judo team) have done an incredible job to get the medals and for us we're just trying to get as many medals as we can in the pool and be the best in the Commonwealth," she said

"If we're able to beat the judo guys then great, but in all it's about being Team Scotland and getting the medals as a collective really, not going against each other."

However, there was just a bit more devilment in the reaction of Scottish swimming's rising star to the discovery that the judo players had held a press conference to mark passing the swimmers' mark after he had qualified for another final.

"I think we still have a few swimmers still to come who are capable of winning medals," said Ross Murdoch, with a wide grin. "We have a massively strong team and everybody is swimming fantastically well. I wouldn't write us off just yet.

"I didn't realise there was some intersport competition going on, but I think once I mention this to the guys there will be more competition between Team Scotland."

He will, yet again, be among those with a chance of adding to the tally tonight as one of three Scots contesting the 50m breaststroke final, Mark Tully and Joe Welstead also doing enough in last night's semi-finals.

In collective terms the team is on course to at least match what was achieved eight years ago, having picked up nine medals in four days of competition with two more days to go.

Whatever they ultimately manage this time around, however, it seems there may be many, many years of medal-winning success ahead for the baby of the entire team, who originally hails from Dundee but now lives on Shetland.

Age, geography and dealing with the condition that has resulted in her eligibility for the para-sport category in which she competes obviously combine to make her potential hard to assess at this stage.

Being born with Perthes disease meant that, as Davies has described it herself, she effectively has only half a bone in her left hip, so finding a way of channelling her competitiveness could perhaps be seen as a triumph in itself.

Her first reward for her dedication was the access to additional expertise that selection for the Scotland squad offered. The benefit of that was evident as she thanked the national team coaches for their help with her turning technique which contributed to her effort in yesterday morning's heats, when she knocked four seconds off her personal best in registering the second fastest qualifying time ahead of last night's final.

Another personal best of 1:21.68, was not quite enough for second place as the same seven swimmers raced again in the evening, but there was no trace of disappointment as she beamed and giggled in delight at what she had achieved.

"I got a medal so I'm still happy," she said, adding that she had not really thought she had a chance of winning one when she arrived, but had started getting excited after posting that qualifying time.

Others had begun to get excited before that, however, as Ann Dickson, the national team coach who has been working with her over the last fortnight, indicated.

She emphasised that the real work had been done by Lorraine Gifford, Davies' coach on Shetland, but explained that attracting the attention of the national selectors had opened up a world of possibilities for this little girl who is barely into her teens.

"She's come from a 16m pool to this," said Dickson, sweeping her hand towards the superb arena that has been lifting Scottish performances night in, night out. And the highly experienced coach is clearly excited by what she has seen in what has been very brief exposure to the youngster.

"When you're young you can take big chunks off and who knows where it's going to go. It was a big, big PB," Dickson said of that qualifying time.

"We've been working on the starts and the turns. We've had a bit of help with video analysis as well with our backroom staff, and just put it all together - things they just couldn't do in Shetland. These were very, very useful things for her because there's no long-course pool or even a 25m pool. It's a big deal for her. Starts and turns... but all the hard work's been done at home."

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