IT IS 28 years ago this week since Myra Nimmo set the Scottish women's long jump record of 6.43 metres, in a short career whose climax was a Montreal Olympic appearance in 1976.

There, she had to feed her coach, Frank Dick, with food scrounged from the competitors' dining room. No lottery support then, as she recalls, and training was at lunchtime, sandwiched between university lectures.

''I was told I had 'no talent whatsoever' - but I had a gift for hard work,'' she said yesterday.

Now, Professor Nimmo, an exercise physiologist at the cutting edge of sports science at Strathclyde University, she is appalled by the longevity of her record.

''It was nice, flattering, for the first 15 years, but it's long overdue improvement.''

Her record could come under threat in the near future, perhaps even in Riga today, when Ruth Irving reappears for Scotland. It would certainly be no surprise to world triple jump record holder Jonathan Edwards, with whom Irving trains on Tyneside.

Though her best of 6.28m is six inches short of the record, she certainly believes she will ultimately be capable of challenging Nimmo's vintage distance.

Irving looked a candidate as long ago as 1994, when she cleared 6.00m as a teenager, and went to the Victoria Commonwealth Games. She qualified again for Kuala Lumpur in 1998, but an injury prevented her from travelling.

''I've spent three years effectively out of action, with an asymmetric pelvis - out of alignment,'' she explains.

''It was giving me pain down my leg, and into my hamstring.

''I also had trouble with my Achilles tendons. I have excercises to keep the pelvis in place, and have been back running and jumping properly for just two months.

''I've already done the qualifying distance for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, but I'm just happy to be competing again. I know I've lots of scope to improve.''

''What I have achieved to date has been with no coach at university, or even a proper runway. There was no track at Cambridge until after I graduated. It's great there if you row, or play rugby, but athletes just have a bit of grass called Parker's Piece - and people walk their dogs and play hockey there.''

Her mother, Catriona, is from Edinburgh, and her dad, Alan, is from Oban. His job as a physicist took him around the world. Ruth was born in Switzerland, and lived for a while in the USA.

She now lives in Wallsend and has gone part-time as a maths teacher, to concentrate on her event. She trains with Olympic champion Edwards, who opens his season today in Ireland, and shares two of his three coaches. Edwards has no doubt she is on course for something special.

''I've trained with her for six years, and felt for her through those injuries,'' he says. ''I'm glad to see her come through it, because many other athletes would have given up.

''Jumpers are always only one footstep away from injury, but Ruth is jumping off a short run-up. There is scope for improvement.''

Among those competing in Latvia today are Lee McConnell and Susan Burnside. Sprinter Burnside will be missed by Edinburgh Woollen Mill as they contest a women's British League match in Birmingham.

The Olympic heptathlon champion, Denise Lewis, makes her season's debut in shot and long jump, and decathlete Dean Macey will compete in the men's match, as will Edinburgh's 200m man Dougie Walker.