THERE is something both fascinating and futile about comparing eras.

Despite the guarantee there will never be a definitive answer as to which era is the best in any given sport, the debate is endless.

No matter how nostalgic an athletics fan one is, it is impossible to argue that this current era of Scottish athletics isn’t one of the very best ever.

It is, I’d suggest, by some distance, the very best ever.

There is, of course, the inevitable recency bias which favours current-day athletes.

With so many outstanding results over the past few years, and this summer in particular, it is easy to be somewhat blinded to performances that occurred decades ago.

But I refuse to be convinced that Scottish athletics has ever been in as healthy a state as it currently enjoys.

As the third major championship – the European Championships – in the space of five weeks come to a close today, it is almost impossible to list every notable result by Scottish athletes this summer.

The highlight, without question, was Jake Wightman’s world title-winning run last month.

His 1500m gold, while not entirely surprising considering his consistency over the past five years, was predicted by few and is certainly one of, if not the single greatest achievement by a Scottish track and field athlete in the history of the sport.

Added to that, this summer alone, Laura Muir and Eilish McColgan’s Commonwealth title-winning exploits, as well as Josh Kerr’s Olympic bronze last summer and the impressive performances by the para athletes such as Samantha Kinghorn in recent seasons, the standard is breathtaking.

Over twenty Scottish outdoor records have been set by active athletes in the past few years which is, by anyone’s standards, astonishing.

It is often easy to take for granted success when it comes so regularly to a sport.

Certainly, this current crop of Scottish track and field athletes have set the bar so high that medals are not only hoped for, they are expected.

But we must recognise quite how remarkable this current generation is.

The 80s into the early 90s was, for so long, seen as the halcyon days for the sport in this country.

Liz McColgan, Yvonne Murray, Tom McKean and Allan Wells were regularly competing, and beating, the world’s very best just as today’s crop are doing.

But the difference now is that the strength-in-depth is unlike anything ever seen in the sport in this country, even at its previous peak.

The men’s 1500m alone has three individuals who all have feasible aspirations to medal at global championships. That is ridiculous.

There are sprinters, middle distance, long distance and field athletes who can all claim to be world-class.

We must appreciate quite how impressive that is for a country with a population of only 5-and-a-half million.

What cannot be assumed is that this strength across the board will continue indefinitely.

Certainly, the signs are good that there is talent in the youth ranks that is capable of filling the shoes of some of these stars.

But just as producing another Andy Murray is by no means a guarantee, so too will it be unspeakably hard to produce another Wightman, Kerr or Muir in the near future.

So while we’re in the middle of it, lets appreciate this current era of Scottish athletics as the phenomenon it indisputably is.


There is no contrast in emotions quite as stark as the one Charlie Guest has been forced to endure in recent weeks.

Scotland’s, and Britain’s, top female slalom skier went from celebrating the best season of her career – she recorded the best World Cup result by a British woman in over 30 years earlier in the season – to the agonising realisation that her career may well be over just as she begins to hit her peak.

The news that UK Sport has withdrawn its funding for Britain’s elite alpine skiers is not merely a disappointing development, it is a devastating one for Guest and her teammates.

It is also a somewhat baffling move from UK Sport.

There is not, of course, a bottomless pot of money from which to fund each and every one of Britain’s top athletes. There has to, at some point, be a line drawn as to who, and which sports, will be supported financially.

Certainly alpine skiing is at a distinct disadvantage to many other sports in that it is eye-wateringly expensive.

Guest estimates the expenses for her coming season will be well in excess of £100,000 which is considerably more than is the case for almost any other sport that UK Sport supports.

However, off the back of the best season GB’s alpine skiers have had in terms of results across the board, there is something profoundly unfair about withdrawing almost every last penny thus effectively telling Guest and her fellow skiers that their careers are over.

A crowd-funding campaign has been launched by the skiers, but that is clearly not a long-term solution.

UK Sport is happy to spend tens of millions of pounds on numerous sports that are almost guaranteed to pay the funding body back in terms of medals.

Sports like rowing and equestrian are funded to the hilt because Olympic medals have become a regularity but global medals in skiing by anyone British is a far less likely outcome due to the strength of the Nordic countries.

However, is this reason enough to stop funding the elite side of the sport entirely? I’d argue not.

British alpine skiing is in its healthiest state for some time, possibly ever.

But by withdrawing funding, UK Sport has effectively signed a death warrant for the elite side of the sport.