FOR many of Scotland’s frozen sporting fraternity, the prospect of a Commonwealth Games on Australia’s tropical East coast in just over a month’s time couldn’t be more alluring.

But physical and mental wellbeing always comes first and so it was last night when Scottish hammer thrower Rachel Hunter took the brave decision to withdraw from the competition on mental health grounds.

Top of the Scottish rankings during 2017 by dint of a 66.46 throw, the 23-year-old veteran of Glasgow 2014 – where she finished a creditable sixth – tweeted last night to the effect that she was in no condition to compete on the Gold Coast.

“Mental health issues (PTSD/Anxiety/Psychosis) have forced me to withdraw,” the nurse wrote on her Twitter feed yesterday. “I will be back for the season though.” Hunter, who has spoken in the past of the bullying she experienced at school, has also previously admitted that she found the pressure of competing in Glasgow 2014 “terrifying”.

While the athletics community in this country passed on their best wishes, another Team Scotland qualified athlete withdrawing from the games was road cyclist Andy Fenn, after the one-time Under-23 World Championship bronze medallist was told that his services were required elsewhere by his professional cycling team, Aqua Blue Sport.

One person’s misfortune merely tends to be another’s opportunity, however, and the withdrawals of Hunter and Fenn meant there were late call-ups to the Commonwealth showpiece for two who had narrowly missed out from the initial cut. The two lucky recipients of golden Team Scotland Gold Coast tickets were shooter Leonard ‘Lenny’ Thomson and gymnast Ellie Russell.

Banff-based shooter Thomson, who earns selection in the 50m rifle prone event, a discipline in which he excelled with a fourth-placed finish at the test event in Brisbane, said his thoughts were with Hunter but he was overjoyed to be boarding the flight.

“It’s disappointing for the person who I am replacing, so my thoughts go out to them and I wish them all the best,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to competing in Brisbane again, it’s a nice range so it will be great to go back there. Making the final will be the major aim, but I’ll be pushing for places and a medal would be fantastic.”

Russell, from Newtongrange in Midlothian, is still just 15 but she joins the nine gymnasts already named, completing a full complement of five men and five women for the strongest possible representation in the artistic gymnastics competition.

The Scottish junior women’s all-around champion in 2016 and 2017, the Newbattle Community High School student qualified for all four apparatus finals at last weekend’s Scottish national artistic gymnastics championships, winning gold on vault and silver on asymmetric bars and beam.

“I am so happy and shocked to be honest, after the disappointment of not being named when the team was originally announced and I can’t quite believe I’m going to the Games,” she said. “After doing really well last weekend at the Scottish, this news just tops it off. I’m really glad to be joining the other girls in the Gold Coast.”

“It is always a bittersweet moment when team changes happen at this late stage,” said Jon Doig, Team Scotland’s Chef de Mission. “You are disappointed for those who have been forced to withdraw, whilst recognising the exciting opportunity this presents to those called up.”

Unsurprisingly, the so-called “Beast from the East” took its toll on Team Scotland plans yesterday, with triathlete Grant Sheldon, one of the first athletes due to depart for warm-weather training ahead of the Games, delayed by the extreme conditions.