The list of elite athletes who have struggled to close the door on their sporting career is lengthy and last week another name was added to the tally.

Despite Ross Murdoch’s certainty that the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham was his last competitive appearance on the elite swimming stage, he has now admitted that this might not, in fact be the case.

Speaking in these pages last week, he revealed he would love to swim for Scotland again and that he is struggling to come to terms with the harsh reality of what retirement from elite sport means.

But more significant than Murdoch’s revelations about his personal situation is his keenness to do what he can to help as many people as possible into sport in order to enjoy the benefits and, in his case and so many others, the life-changing effects it can have.

Murdoch says he was not an academically gifted child, nor one who thrived socially, but swimming put him on the path to not only become one of Scotland’s most successful athletes in recent times but also to a Masters degree and a complete transformation in his ability to deal with social situations.

There is often a tendency to forget just how important and significant a role sport can play in people’s lives.

Modern-day sport, particularly elite sport, is littered with stories of doping, cheating, abuse and mistreatment. The successes are often overshadowed, and this is particularly germane over the past few years, of horror stories about how destructive and detrimental the push for silverware on the global stage is.

Certainly, there is no hiding from the fact that the world of elite sport is bursting with examples of athletes being treated badly. In recent times, there has been the sexual and physical abuse that has been uncovered in gymnastics, the bullying of athletes in a plethora of sports, the mental health issues that have been exacerbated by the pressure exerted to succeed and the dreadful behaviour by coaches who prioritise major championship success above any kind of duty of care to their charges.

These examples have been demoralising and distressing, but what is particularly upsetting is they have overshadowed the comprehensive and far-ranging benefits sport brings.

Far more than the physical rewards, sport brings with it a host of social and emotional advantages that few other pursuits can match.

Murdoch talked of his discomfort in social situations when he was younger; listening to him speak openly in the media these days it is hard to believe he ever struggled to communicate and connect with people but he says it is sport that allowed him to develop the skills required to become the “functioning member of society” he is today.

What is funny about elite sport is that despite it being a profession many people covet, on the face of things it can appear that the negatives of being a professional athlete far outweigh the positives.

However, this could not be further from the truth. Murdoch’s praise of the benefits of sport were a timely reminder that sport is one of the most significant forces for good in the world.

The beauty of grassroots sport in particular is that without the pressure of hunting major championship silverware or maintaining funding or keeping other people in a job dependent on your results, it has almost none of the negative elements which can diminish enjoyment of it.

But elite sport too has, despite the often negative spin put upon it, countless positive impacts on individuals’ lives.

That Murdoch is so keen to ensure others also enjoy these benefits is a fitting way to move into retirement, whenever that may come, for one of Scotland’s best-ever swimmers.


Of all Eilish McColgan’s successes this summer, perhaps her most impressive moment was her reaction to the news that her British and European 10k record that she set at the Great Scottish Run was invalid.

Her time of 30 minutes 18 seconds this month was just a second quicker than the previous record, also set by McColgan this season, but it has been wiped from the record books after the discovery that the course was 150m short.

McColgan would have had every justification to be livid, particularly considering the same mistake was made in 2016 in the same race, with the course once again short. It is, surely, not too much for the runners, particularly the elite field, to expect that they are running the correct distance.

However, rather than kicking off about the error, McColgan was astonishingly magnanimous saying: “Obviously disappointed with this news, but these things happen! Thankfully my British and European record still stand from the Great Manchester 10K. So it’s all good!”

Certainly the blow will have been softened by the fact she already held the records. But athletes are in record-breaking shape rarely over the course of their career and McColgan is likely aware that she may never have a season like this one again.

It was a classy response from someone who would have been forgiven for being angry at what the organisers called “a shortfall in the distance wholly due to human error”.

Credit to McColgan for accepting so graciously a mistake which has cost her one of the highlights of her career.