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As spotlight falls on Glasgow, rankings fail to light up Scottish hopes

H ERE is a sobering thought.

Eilidh Child, left, will not have Perri Shakes-Drayton for company this summer.
Eilidh Child, left, will not have Perri Shakes-Drayton for company this summer.

If athletics results at this year's Commonwealth Games were to be based on Scottish performances in 2013, then we would have just one men's track finalist and only one men's and one women's medal-winner in Glasgow.

Stan Greenberg, the statistician and researcher who fed the doyen of athletics commentary, David Coleman, for many years, has kindly sent me his Commonwealth rankings for last year.

There are two lists for each sex: the full rankings, which, for example, show the 30 fastest Commonwealth marathon runners were Kenyan (as were 76 of the top 80), and the effective rankings. The latter take account of the fact that only three athletes per nation are eligible for each event at the Games. So the second list is the surest guide to form, and analysis serves as a warning to those tempted to inflate Scotland's prospects.

Based on 2013 rankings it is unlikely that Scotland will have more than two medallists: Mark Dry (gold, hammer) and Eilidh Child (silver, 400 metres hurdles). We would have only one man in a track final: Chris O'Hare, already selected. He was eighth in the Commonwealth at 1500m last year, and a world finalist in Moscow.

Just six men would qualify for field event finals. The hammer promises Scotland's best hope. Dry topped the 2013 rankings by a mere five centimetres - less than two inches in old money. He reached 74.46 metres, ahead of Canadian Jim Steacy (74.41m), with Andy Frost (72.31m) ranked fifth, and Chris Bennett (71.24m) seventh. The reigning gold and silver medallist from Delhi (Chris Harmse, South Africa) and Alex Smith (England) are still active and ranked fourth (72.40m) and third (72.45m).

The pole vault looks next best for Scotland, with Jax Thoirs (5.50m) in fifth and Greg Maclean (5.30m) 10th - an event in which a single centimetre covers the 2013 top three: Canada's Shawn Barber and England's Steve Lewis (5.71m) and Luke Cutts (5.70m).

The only other Scottish men's finalist on 2013 form would be Allan Smith, ranked 12th in the high jump at 2.26m.

Scottish interest in all men's finals would therefore focus on six events in total: 1500m, high jump, hammer, pole vault, marathon and decathlon. One does not qualify for the last two. If you make the entry standard, you're in. Thus, Derek Hawkins is already selected for the marathon, and Roger Skedd has achieved the decathlon standard.

Hawkins' best is 2:14.04. The three Kenyans who lead the 2013 rankings have all run inside 2:04, and their 80th best athlete has run inside 2:10. Skedd, who dropped out in Delhi, declining the offer of a rerun in the 110m hurdles, ranked 12th in the Commonwealth last year, but his 7457 points puts him more than 1000 adrift of Commonwealth No.1 Damian Warner (Canada).

If this paints a bleak picture of men's prospects, it gets worse. Only three male track runners have a qualifying mark for 2014: O'Hare and Dave Bishop at 1500m, and Guy Learmonth at 800m. Learmonth (1:47.31) is 22nd in a list headed by three Kenyans (all under 1:44).

Not a single Scottish male has qualified at 100, 200, 400, 5000m, 10,000m, steeplechase, or 110m and 400m hurdles. Or long jump, triple jump, shot, discus, and javelin.

In sprinting, despite an illustrious heritage, there's not a single Scot in last year's 100 and 200m rankings. Of the 49 Commonwealth male athletes who ran wind-legal 100m times of 10.20 seconds or better, 18 were Jamaican. The fastest Scot was Ryan Oswald at 10.44. Jamie Bowie is Scottish No.1 at 400m (46.06), 28th in the effective rankings, but the entry standard required by Scotland is particularly demanding: 45.45.

So consider this devastating fact. In the only events at which Scotland has produced an Olympic men's champion, there will be no representative in Glasgow 2014. So much for the legacy of William Halswelle (400m champion in 1908), Eric Liddell (400m champion in 1924), and Allan Wells (100m champion in 1980).

The Scottish women's prospects are brighter overall. Child is ranked second at 400m hurdles - a list topped by Perri Shakes-Drayton who has already ruled herself out after surgery. Child has repeatedly proved herself a championship performer: a European and world finalist, Commonwealth silver medallist, gold and silver medallist at the European Indoor.

In running events, six other women have achieved standards which would rank them in finals: Laura Muir and Steff Twell in the top 12 at 1500m, Twell and Laura Whittle at 5000m, Eilish McColgan, Emily Stewart and Lennie Waite all top 12 in the steeplechase. And three women (Susan Partridge, Freya Ross and Hailey Haining) are ranked in the top 20 of those qualified in the marathon.

In field events, four women would make it into finals based on last year's data: Emma Nuttall ranked 11th in high jump (1.87m), Noni Mordi 11th, triple jump (13.44m), Kirsty Law 12th, discus (55.66m), and Susan McKelvie 10th, hammer (62.65m).

Over all events, 28 women have achieved qualifying standards in 17 events, plus a 4 x 400m relay. Sixteen men have achieved qualifying standards in just nine events. As it stands, there will be nine women's events without Scottish representation, and 17 men's.

And another thing . . .

It's not all gloom on the sprint front. We note Michael Olsen, a 14-year-old Edinburgh Academy schoolboy who beat all the seniors in the back markers' New Year Sprint race. Olsen has already written out his school records at 100 and 200m, held respectively by Jamie Henderson (former European junior 100m champion) and David Jenkins (former European 400m champion). Take a bow Bill Walker, still coaching champions at 76!

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