EILIDH Doyle has flown the flag. Now she wants to set the standard.

It was hard to avoid the symbolism as the 31-year-old carried the saltire into the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony on Wednesday evening. Doyle has, after all, been the standard bearer for Scottish athletics for the best part of a decade now. And at times, not least the early days when it mainly fell to her and Lee McConnell to do the honours, this must have been a burden every bit as heavy as taming that heavy flagpole in the gusting Queensland night air.

When she first went down to train at Loughborough nine years ago, Doyle heard every Jocko joke going. For the last decade or so, after all, Commonwealth athletics medals for Scotland have been like hen’s teeth. Whilst our swimmers were casting all before them in Melbourne in 2006, our athletes claimed just two pieces of silverware, a bronze for McConnell in the 400m and a 110m hurdles silver for Chris Baillie. Two more followed in Delhi in 2010, where she herself landed her first major medal and Steph Twell also got in on the act. Even in Glasgow, there were just three, Doyle and Lynsey Sharp taking silver and Dry winning bronze.

She doesn’t hear those jokes so much these days, mind you. Mainly due to the fact that a formidable supporting cast has sprung up behind her capable of sharing the load. When you witness the representation of Scottish qualified athletes at major events such as last year’s outdoor World Championships in London and this year’s indoor one in Birmingham, even Sir Alex Ferguson’s old line about the master race seems not far off the mark.

“When I first joined my training group, there was a bit of a mixture,” said Doyle, who has a long-term plan to return to the Cumbernauld area with her husband Brian and dog Ben. “There was me and Dai Greene, so a Scot and another Celt. Then there was Lawrence Clarke – who is the poshest English man you could ever meet.

“Malcolm [Arnold, my coach] used to be the worst one to wind me up about being Scottish,” added Doyle. “He would say: ‘We’re not going to let you in here to train with us without a passport. Or he would tell me that if I didn’t train well he’d make me sign the English anthem! But they can’t make many jokes about Scottish athletes now. We’re the ones going well.”

Having said that, the development of this strength and depth is timely indeed when you consider the two giant losses this team has hard to bear. First Doyle’s fellow Kinross High School alumni Laura Muir skipped the games to complete her final year of vet training, then distance runner Andrew Butchart missed out due to a broken foot just months out from the event.

That took at least two entirely plausible early medals off the board ahead of the track and field campaign which begins tomorrow. But Doyle is confident others – maybe even Mark Dry, Scotland’s only male medal winner in Glasgow four years ago and his rival Chris Bennett in the hammer right off the bat – can step up to the mark.

“My first medal was at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and to get a medal is huge for your career,” said Doyle, who has long since outstripped Yvonne Murray as Scotland’ most decorated track and field athlete. “For the ones who are at that certain point, the likes of Chris Bennett and Mark Dry who have made Olympics teams, are maybe getting into finals, this is a great chance for them to come here and win a medal. Getting that first medal can really trigger you into getting more success. Hopefully we can get the ball rolling and everyone can have a knock-on effect on each other.

“When I first made teams, it was just myself and Lee McConnell who were doing that,” she added. “It was one or two of you who were there or thereabouts, whereas now there’s so many of us. Everything seems more achievable now than it did before.

“If you look at what we’ve done in those last four years since Glasgow, we’ve had our best representation in the Olympics, our best representation at the World Champs last year and we’ve just come off the back of the World Indoors where we’ve won more medals than we’ve ever won through myself, Laura and Zoey Clar.k All the athletes who are here are known. People know who they are and what events they are and they’re coming here to perform well.”

For such a seasoned athlete, however, Doyle’s own medal hopes in the Gold Coast are something of an unknown. Rolling back the years with her first ever world medal in the flat 400 indoors in Birmingham in March, she has yet to run a single competitive 400m hurdles. In Glasgow, she was fated to hope for a slip-up behind a strong favourite; here the race is wide open.

“In Glasgow, Kaliese Spencer had been dominant all year and I was favourite for the silver,” says Doyle. “Here, there are three Jamaicans – and two of them finished higher than me in the World Championships. There’s a Canadian athlete who finished higher than me at the Worlds. And a South African athlete who is very good. So it’s definitely going to be very tough to win a medal. But off the back of the indoor season, I’ve shown that my flat speed is there. It’s just a case of getting the hurdling right and running a good race. But it’s definitely going to be a lot trickier to be on that podium this year than it has been in the last couple of Commonwealth Games. And I haven’t run a competitive 400 hurdles this year. We kind of thought about racing on the 28th when we were out here. But I had hurt my calf in the World Indoors. And we wanted to get in a couple of pretty big training sessions Hopefully that works out for the better. Why not open up my season in the heats of a Commonwealth Games? Just to put that added expectation on!”

Doyle says she feels more Scottish the further away from the country she is, but that will all change soon enough when she and her husband fulfil a long-planned return journey to the home she still keeps in Cumbernauld. The other member of the clan is the pair’s dog, Ben, who they are getting daily updates from as her husband’s best man Scott, who is acting as a dog sitter for the best part of five week. “Scott is our official dog sitter and loves having Ben. He’s having him for the whole five weeks that we’re away. It’s a long time but we’ve been getting daily photos. He’s loving life. As long as he gets walked and fed, he’s all right!”