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Bobsleigh sets off without her, but Cooke comes out of the cold to perform strongly

Competing in front of a few hundred at Emirates Arena does not quite match the adrenaline rush that will be on offer to those viewed by millions over the coming weeks when the Winter Olympics slide into view.

STEP CLOSER: Rachel Mackenzie clears the Games qualifying standard for the first time, although she needs to match it outdoors to qualify. Picture: Bobby Gavin
STEP CLOSER: Rachel Mackenzie clears the Games qualifying standard for the first time, although she needs to match it outdoors to qualify. Picture: Bobby Gavin

It will take a while, Gillian Cooke admits, for the deflation of her omission from the British bobsleigh crew to fully dissipate. What better distraction, though, than to secure a berth at a very different Games?

The former world champion made her comeback to athletics yesterday at the Scottish Indoor Championships and while it was not quite a triumphant return in the long jump, there was optimism aplenty for the 31-year-old at the Emirates Arena.

In her initial pursuit of the qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Games, Cooke leapt 6.08 metres, just 12 centimetres short of the distance required for consideration for Glasgow. She was pushed into second place, just, by her Edinburgh AC club-mate Sarah Warnock, whose selection for Scotland's team has already been affirmed. It was enough, however, to claim a spot in next weekend's UK Championships where, with a little more technical preparation, she can look for even more.

"I had no idea what was going to happen but what I do know is I now need competitions," Cooke said. "So I knew if I could go over 6.05m, then that would give me another shot at it in Sheffield next weekend. I didn't know if that was realistic.

"But now, with that result, I know I'm not being crazy thinking I can just jump straight from bobsleigh back into athletics."

Warnock jumped 6.11m to underpin her claim to be the domestic No.1. "Even though I've been selected, there's pressure to perform, not to prove yourself but to not let anybody down. I want to show everybody why I'm going."

Gregor Maclean's incentives extend beyond merely appearing at the Commonwealths. The 22-year-old has a medal in mind. Devoid of his arch-rival Jax Thoirs, he had little problem in clearing 5.30m to claim a native record but was thwarted in his attempt at a Scottish indoor best of 5.41m. More, he is certain, can be found. "It sets me up very nicely for next weekend at the UK Championships," he said. "These kind of heights are coming easily for me now and I know if I'd just adjusted the run-up, I'd have cleared 5.41.

"But this year's about getting over 5.50 consistently. And that's why I'm looking forward to Sheffield because I'll have more guys pushing me."

Rachel Mackenzie took a step towards earning a Glasgow spot by clearing the high jump standard of 1.80m for the first time, 24 hours after her fellow Scot Jayne Nisbet soared 2cm beyond that mark at a meeting in the Czech Republic. The 26-year-old from Inverness must now match her new best outdoors to be in the frame for Scotland's Commonwealth team, but she senses it is within reach.

"The last few times I've jumped, I've gone for 1.80 but missed out," she said. "But I felt good here. I changed my run-up last week. And now I feel I can get it again outdoors."

Elsewhere, steeplechaser Lennie Waite made a successful indoor return with victory in the 1500 metres, Allan Hamilton claimed a double in the long jump and 60m while Kathryn Christie did likewise in the 60m and 200m.

Michael Dounie edged out Francis Smith in a photo finish in the 60m hurdles with Greg Louden and Maria Thomas taking golds respectively in the men's and women's 400m.

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