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Medals must not disguise notion that revival at elite level is some way off

FOUR medals for Scottish athletes at the Commonwealth Games was better than most dared hope for, but they should not blind us to concerns about the sport's overall health.

Post-2014 UK rankings, compiled by statistical guru Stan Greenberg, make disturbing reading. In the 40 individual men's and women's events contested, almost half (10 men's, seven women's) have not one Scot in the top five. In 13 (seven men's, six women's), there is no Scot among the top 10.

There are bright pockets. At 1500m Chris O'Hare and Jake Wightman are ranked first and second; in the hammer there are three Scots in the top five; Eilidh Child, Lynsey Sharp, Laura Muir, Eilish McColgan and Susan Partridge are ranked No.1 at 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, steeplechase and marathon respectively.

In total, 28 women and 24 men (52 from 800 UK athletes) are Scots. In 1986, four fewer women's events were contested and there were no Para events. Then, there were 42 Scots of 720 ranked athletes: 24 women and 18 men. In only 10 events (seven men's, three women's) was there no Scot in the top 10. In 1986 Scotland won six Games medals, yet only two Scots topped the UK rankings: Liz McColgan (10,000m) and Geoff Parsons (high jump).

The most significant area of change is sprints. There's not one Scot in the current UK top 20 at either 100 or 200 metres, no woman in the top 20 at 100m, and only one (Kathryn Christie, 14th) at 200m. In 1986 there were three Scots in the UK men's 100m top 10, and two at 200 (5 top 20). There were three women in the top 10 at 100m (4 top 20), and two at 200 (4 top 20). Sixteen Scots, male and female, made the UK top 20.

Scotland's director of coaching, Stephen Maguire, whose imminent departure to UK Athletics as head of sprints, hurdles and relays is a matter of regret, had put initiatives in place to address Scotland's sprint decline and has improved matters elsewhere. We hope this is not simply the usual Commonwealth Games honeymoon. Performances always improve in Games years then slip back. If they don't this time, it will be a triumph of hope over experience. The 2014 Scotland team did well, but an athletics revival at elite level remains some way off.

On the plus side, clubs are experiencing interest from new members and volunteers. Shettleston Harriers, for example, say their membership has doubled since London 2012: good legacy news in terms of getting people involved. But thus far, there is little hint of future potential champions.

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