THERE is something profoundly manufactured about national identity and sport.

As proud a moment as it is to represent your country, the days, weeks and years dedicated to training, eating and sleeping well, and avoiding injury are, in the main, done for selfish reasons.

There are few athletes who, when they are dragging themselves to training at 5.30am or are, yet again, turning down the offer of a night out, are doing it because of the glory they may reap for their country.

Instead, almost every athlete is doing it for personal glory – a reason that is entirely legitimate.

However, for Scottish athletes, there is one event that is just a little different from all others – the Commonwealth Games.

From the minute the team selections begin to the kitting out to moving into the Athletes’ Village alongside hundreds of compatriots, there is a feel within Team Scotland that is unlike any other sporting event.

It is why, despite the numerous challenges and increasing apathy the Commonwealth Games is facing, it will always remain special to Scottish athletes.

For most Scots, particularly in Olympic sports like swimming, cycling and athletics, their norm is competing as part of a GB team and so competing for Scotland is rare.

Which is what makes the Commonwealth Games so unique and it is why Scottish victories are  so special.

So many of the Scottish athletes in the lead up to Birmingham 2022 have talked about how they relish wearing Scottish colours, particularly because it is such an uncommon occurrence.

There is, and I have experienced this myself, an entirely different feel to competing for Scotland rather than GB.  There is a far more intimate feel and greater sense of being in it together.

Almost every other country has a challenge persuading their top athletes to turn up at the Commonwealth Games.

Not Scotland. Every big name in Scotland competing in a Commonwealth sport is in Birmingham, or would have been had it not been for injury.

Jake Wightman and Laura Muir, both of whom have won recent silverware in the far more challenging environment of the World Athletics Championships, have talked of how much a Commonwealth medal, won wearing Scottish colours, would mean.

There is nothing disingenuous about these claims of national pride from Team Scotland’s athletes because they put their money where their mouth is and turn up every time.

It is why, in Scottish terms at least, the Commonwealth Games continue to thrive, despite its star waning in other parts of the world.


That today we will see the first winner of the women’s Tour de France, or as it is officially known, the Tour de France Femmes, 119 years after the first men’s victor was crowned, says much about how far women’s sport still lags behind.

It is, admittedly, somewhat disingenuous to call this the first women’s Tour; since 1984, some version of a women’s Tour has been staged but throughout those four decades, the race has been plagued with problems such as lack of interest, being overshadowed by the men’s event and financial difficulties.

So, the staging this year of an official women’s Tour, one which is backed by the same organisers as the men’s race, ASO, is significant.

The men’s Tour de France is, as we all know, one of the toughest tests in the sporting world.

The women’s race has, however, been a pale imitation. For almost a decade, the women’s Tour has been a one-day race that takes place before a stage of the men’s Tour meaning it was viewed at best as a warm-up for the men’s event and at worst, was ignored completely.

That this year’s race was held as a stand-alone event, beginning the day the men’s race concluded and lasting a week is a significant step forward for women’s cycling and women’s sport.

Having a Tour de France for female riders is massive; there are plenty of women’s races throughout the season but for the general public, the Tour de France is the only one that really breaks through. Even someone with the most rudimentary knowledge of cycling knows about the Tour de France, or the men’s event anyway, and so for the message to be that only the male riders are worthy of such an event has been hugely damaging to women’s sport.

The message has been that women cannot, for whatever reason, cope with, nor sustain, a mega-race like the Tour.

For young girls to be able to watch the top women riders compete in the biggest bike race in the history of sport is invaluable. It tells them that they are just as worthy and just as capable and just as valuable as male racers.

With no women’s Tour, it tells them the opposite –  they are not worthy, not capable and not valuable.

When the first female winner of the Tour de France Femmes is crowned today, it will mark an historic moment for the sport.

This progress must continue though, it cannot be halted as has happened in the past.

But after the success of this year’s race, women’s cycling has taken a giant leap forward.