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Queen of Hearts Eilidh Child breaks new ground to begin her reign

It might have been different for Eilidh Child yesterday.

Eilidh Child, right, joins her cohorts in the GB women's 4x400m relay team to collect their bronze medals, a day after she won individual gold at the European Championships. Picture: Getty Images
Eilidh Child, right, joins her cohorts in the GB women's 4x400m relay team to collect their bronze medals, a day after she won individual gold at the European Championships. Picture: Getty Images

After finishing second in the Commonwealth Games 400 metres hurdles final at Hampden two and a half weeks ago, she was asked by Hearts if she would like to step out on to the pitch at Tynecastle and show off her silver medal ahead of the Edinburgh derby. As it was, the pride of Pitreavie Amateur Athletics Club politely declined, pointing out that she would still be competing for Great Britain on the closing afternoon of the European Championships.

"I think it was fortunate for me that I was going to be here in Zurich for the relay final," said Child, following her thrilling 400m hurdles victory on the European stage. "I don't know if that would have been the best game to go out in front of the crowd."

Perhaps not, what with the green and white half of Edinburgh also in attendance for the first capital derby of the season. The Reid twins would have not exactly been busting a gut to acclaim the newly-crowned golden girl of Scottish athletics.

When their hit "500 Miles" was blasted out during Child's lap of honour at Hampden she responded cheekily by raising five fingers of one hand and one finger of the other as a reminder of the score when Hearts met Hibs there in the 2012 Scottish Cup final. Yesterday she would have been justified in making a 2-1 gesture, not only in celebration of the final score at Tynecastle but also to denote her personal medal tally from this summer's major championships: two European and one Commonwealth.

Just 10 minutes before Prince Buaben was stroking home the decisive penalty in Edinburgh, the Queen of Hearts was back on the track in the Letzigrund Stadium, running the opening leg for Britain in the women's 4x400m relay final. A fine job she did, too, handing over in second place and then watching as Kelly Massey, Shana Cox and Margaret Adeoye completed the job, finishing third behind France and Ukraine in 3min 24.27sec.

"I'm really happy," said Child. "To win another medal is a great end to the weekend for me."

No female Scottish athlete has enjoyed a better time at a single European Championships. Child is the first to win two medals at the same meeting and only two men have achieved the feat - David Jenkins, with 400m silver and 4x400m relay gold in 1974, and Dougie Walker, with 200m and 4x100m relay gold in 1998.

Child had gone into the record books already on Saturday, after a performance of true Scottish grit, holding off the fast-finishing Ukrainian Anna Titimets to claim the one-lap hurdles crown by 0.08sec in 54.48sec. In doing so, the 27-year-old became only the third Scottish woman to win an individual European outdoor title, following in the spike-marks of Yvonne Murray, winner of the 3000m in Split in 1990, and Lynsey Sharp, the 800m champion of 2012. Child also became only the second British winner of her event after Sally Gunnell, who was the Olympic champion when she triumphed in Helsinki in 1994.

Asked whether she had grasped the scale of her achievements, Child replied: "It's crazy. You don't think about these things until you get told about them afterwards. I didn't know I was only the second British winner after Sally Gunnell. To be in that company is just amazing.

"I've not really had a chance to stop and take it all in yet, with having to be back on the track here today for the relay. Once I finish the season, I can look back on both the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships and take it all in and appreciate it."

Child is not finished yet for the season. She plans to run in two or three Diamond League meetings, which is likely to include Sunday's event in Birmingham, and will line up for Europe in the IAAF Continental Cup (the former World Cup) in Marrakesh next month. The top two finishers in every event at the European Championships are invited to compete in Morocco, so Titimets will be given the opportunity to avenge the result the Europeans.

"I've not actually had a chance to look back at the race yet," said Child. "I knew I was in the lead off the last hurdle but my legs were going and I just couldn't get to that line quick enough. Then, all of a sudden, there was a row of girls alongside me. I thought I'd won it but I wanted to make sure before I properly celebrated. I didn't want to make a fool of myself."

In her youth Child was a champion swimmer, winning the Scottish schools' 50m butterfly title. "My mother swam for Scotland and my two sisters and my brother were all pretty good too," she said. "I always thought that I would be a competitive swimmer but then I started doing athletics and went down that path instead."

She was not the only Child to take a different route. One of her sisters, Catriona, has become an author. "She's so talented," Eilidh said. "She's already had one novel published and the second is out on August 26."

The hurdling, golden Child will be in Edinburgh for the launch at Blackwell's. She has, however, yet to confirm a date for that parade on the pitch at Tynecastle.

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