ECHOES of a past Scotland retreat fell on St Etienne last night as East Kilbride Athletic Club's kilted clach prepared to depart from the world championships.
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Their party of eight upstaged rival cavalcades among more than 46,000 noisy cross-country fans, but they had little to cheer as Scottish and British hopes were spit-roasted over a baking weekend. Overall team results were Britain's worst ever.
Kathy Butler collapsed on the final lap of the women's race on Saturday, and was half carried from St Galmier's hippodrome, unable to cope with the 27-degree (81F) heat. Cruelly, the silicon chip on her shoe triggered the computer as she was helped through the finish, and Britain was named team bronze medallists. When the mistake was spotted, they dropped to sixth, best UK placing of the weekend, and the 31year-old Edinburgh woman was unable to start yesterday's short race.
The Commonwealth Youth Games 1500m champion, Morag MacLarty, from Auchterarder, was fourth GB junior, but the Dundee medical student was close to breakdown herself. She did well to finish 71st as two colleagues dropped out. Twentieth, by 15year-old Emily Pidgeon, was the best UK placing. The best men's placing was Mo Farah, 37th (fifth European) in the senior long race, nearly three minutes behind the winner.
St Etienne was the scene of Scotland's 1998 World Cup exit, but athletics' answer to the Tartan/Barmy Army preserved a tradition of reckless abandon in defeat. With union flag and Saltire face paintings, Kenny Clements, Dave Condra, Ed Ramage, Gordon Colvin, Graeme Haddow, Grant Baillie, Mark Smith and his sister Kelly were a colourful crew.
Condra was kitted out with a BBC microphone (toilet roll cardboard and foam rubber) but Colvin was even more inventive: shouldering a Blue Peter-style film camera made from a Nike shoebox.
The commentator Brendan Foster observed that it was one camera more than the Beeb actually had here, as they took their feed from French TV.