FOR most athletes, being on the verge of their third Olympic Games would mean they would soon be winding down their career in elite sport. 

Not Eilish McColgan however; rather, she believes she is just getting started. 

In the coming days, McColgan will make her third Olympic appearance, becoming a member of the esteemed group who have achieved such a feat across Team GB, which contains only a select few track and field athletes. 

However, at the age of 30, there is no way she is looking at Tokyo being her final Olympic appearance. 

“To be going to my third Games is incredible; I never dreamed I’d even go to one Olympics so to go to three is something I’m really proud of,” says McColgan. 

“It’s very surreal that this is my third Olympics but it’s actually given me a lot of confidence that I can reach four. In another three years time, I’ll be looking at the marathon and so reaching four Games is a goal I’ve definitely set for myself. 

“(Distance runner) Jo Pavey made it to five Olympics and I remember thinking, when I was younger and on the team with Jo, that going to five Games was just crazy. But now, I’d love to achieve something as huge as that. To be so consistent would be incredible.” 

It’s a testament to McColgan’s evolution as an athlete that she is a triple-Olympian. 

Her first Olympic experience, in 2012, was as a steeplechaser, her second, in 2016, was in the 5000m and this time around she will race both the 5000m and the 10,000m. 

Her path has not been smooth, though.  

In 2015, McColgan suffered a career-threatening foot injury that ultimately ended her steeplechase career but her switch to distance running has, if anything, proved more fruitful, especially in recent times. 

The pandemic may have turned the sporting calendar upside down but McColgan is one of the athletes who was able to use the extended training period particularly fruitfully. 

Her 10,000m personal best was smashed back in February, with the Dundonian taking 18 seconds off her previous best. 

However, it was her run over 5000m earlier this month that really highlighted the shape she is in. 

At the Diamond League meet in Oslo, which was a last-minute addition to McColgan’s programme, she sliced 18 seconds off her previous best, running 14 minutes 23.55 seconds, and in the process, broke the long-standing British record that had been held by Paula Radcliffe since 2004. 

It was quite a performance and stands her in excellent stead for the Olympic Games which, she admits, in a chaotic season, is the only meet which has not been a late addition to her schedule. 

A solid winter of training is now bearing fruit and while McColgan will be up against it to break the African dominance in either the 5000m or the 10,000m in Tokyo when it comes to silverware, she nevertheless has her sights set on a significant goal. 

Her mum, Liz, has held the Scottish 10,000m record of 30 minutes 57.07 seconds for over 30 years but McColgan has it in her sights and believes she has the form to displace her mum in the record books. 

“I’ve had a really good run of things this year – I’m in good form and I’ve been injury-free for a long time so even though I’m five years older than my last Olympics, if anything, I’m coming into this one stronger than I’ve ever been,” she says. 

“I’ve not really got a goal in mind when it comes to positions because you just don’t know what other people are going to do so, for me, the goal is to run a PB.  

“I’d like to get as close to 30:30s as I can.  

“I’d like to think I can break my mum’s national record and I think that’ll be a real achievement, especially in the conditions.  

“If that’s good enough for top-five, I’ll be over the moon but if it’s only good enough for top-ten, there’s nothing I can do about that, other people will have had an absolute blinder.” 

The one year postponement to the Olympic Games means McColgan travels to Tokyo exactly 30 years after her mum’s greatest achievement; becoming 10,000m world champion, also in Tokyo, giving McColgan’s Olympic appearance an intriguing symmetry and does, she admits, give things an extra edge. 

However, due to the Covid restrictions, Liz, who doubles as McColgan’s coach, is unable to travel to Japan and will watch her daughter run from the comfort of her own home. 

Despite her absence though, McColgan is well aware of the significance. 

“The delay to the Games means it’s exactly 30 years since my mum’s win and so it’s like we’ve gone full circle,” she says.  

“Tokyo is a really special place for her – as well as winning the Worlds there, she set a half-marathon world record in Japan and has won the Tokyo Marathon so it’s amazing to be heading to a country that’s so special to my family. 

“I’d have loved my mum to be there because she’s put in so much work from her side so it’s a shame but that’s just the way is has to be with all the restrictions.” 

For many athletes heading to Tokyo, this will be their first taste of the Olympics, meaning they have a limited frame of reference as to what a “normal” Olympic experience is like. 

McColgan however, is well-versed when it comes to a typical Olympics and knows this summer’s will be considerably different, leaving her grateful she has already had a taste of the things that make the Olympics so magical. 

“I feel sorry for athletes who this is their first Games, especially that our families can’t come,” she says. 

 “The stadium will be very quiet with no fans and so it’ll be very different to the atmosphere we had at London in 2012. That was just chaos. 

“The Athletes’ Village will be very different too. 

“The impact the restrictions will have are less important for me though because I’ve already experienced all of that. So, for me, it’s just another championships that I want to perform well at. 

“It’ll be strange but it’s still the Olympic Games and I’m just very grateful it’s going ahead.”