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No Hampden roar but it's business as usual for Eilidh Child

Just before the start of the morning session on day two of the European Athletics Championships yesterday, the familiar strains of Charlie and Craig Reid could be heard on the public address system at the Letzigrund Stadium.

Eilidh Child was buzzing from Jo Pavey's success as she began her quest for a first European title in strong form. Picture: Getty
Eilidh Child was buzzing from Jo Pavey's success as she began her quest for a first European title in strong form. Picture: Getty

Not that the setting was anything like Hampden revisited. The Zurich weather was decidedly dreich but the atmosphere was far from the jam-packed crowds of Glasgow 2014. There were only a couple of hundred souls sitting in the stands, watching race walk athletes (20km rather than 500 miles), getting ready for the opening event on the track.

At least the crowd had swollen to 3000 by the time Eilidh Child stepped into the arena for heat one of the 400m hurdles - her first race since a raucous Hampden roared her to Commonwealth silver.

That night, not even the sound of the Hibernian-minded Proclaimers could dampen the spirits of the Hearts devotee as she took her lap of honour. Yesterday, as she took her place on the start line, complete with Hearts wristband, Child's spirits had been lifted by Jo Pavey striking 10,000m gold the night before.

"We all watched it last night, the whole team," said Child afterwards. "We were all standing up, screaming. There were tears as well. She's given us such a buzz around the team."

There might have also been something of a buzz about Pavey yesterday morning. Having arrived back late at the team hotel, the 40-year-old decided to sleep in her race kit rather than risk waking her room-mate, Goldie Sayers.

For Child, there was never likely to be the sweet smell of a gold in Glasgow, given the presence of Jamaica's Kaliese Spencer, the clear world No.1 in the women's one-lap hurdles. It is rather different here.

The pride of Pitreavie AC is the European No.1 and she looked a class apart from her continental rivals yesterday, winning her heat with ease in 55.32sec, 0.83 ahead of Belgian Axelle Dauwens.

Hanna Ryzhkyoka, the Ukrainian who beat Child at the European Team Championships in Braunschweig in June, failed to make it through to tonight's semi-finals. She tripped over in the second heat and recovered to finish fifth but was disqualified anyway for stepping out of her lane.

The most likely threat to Child would appear to be Denisa Rosolova of the Czech Republic, who eased to victory in her heat in 56.13, and knows a thing or two about sporting upsets. You might remember her ex-husband. Lukas Rosol delivered a knockout blow to Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon in 2012.

"It is different here for me to how it was in Glasgow," reflected Child. "I felt more nervous for the Games because I had all that attention on me, but here I'm the favourite.

"I have the exact same attitude that I had in Glasgow. I just need to go in there and execute my race and if I do that I'll be happy. It does feel a bit tamer here, though - not so much attention on me. I quite like that."

It was a little different when Child's fellow Glasgow 2014 silver medallist, Lynsey Sharp, lined up for the final heat of the 800m at lunchtime. "I heard someone shout 'Come on Lynsey'," the Edinburgh athlete said. "It's nice to see people have made the journey across."

Sharp's own journey out to Switzerland had been a tortuous one, involving nine hours stuck at Heathrow thanks to Hurricane Bertha, but the 24-year-old was in assured form on the Letzigrund track, controlling the race from the front and winning in 2:01.55 despite taking the risk to ease down as she approached the line.

The same tactic cost Tom McKean a qualifying place in the heats of the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, where two rivals nipped past him just before the line. Thankfully, Sharp had a little too much in hand for the three women rapidly closing on her. The defending champion confessed, however: "I'll get told off by my coach for that."

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