There is something about the outdoor athletics season beginning that makes it feel like it is really summer.

We are now, after what seems like an interminably long winter, at that point when track and field really kicks into gear. There has already been one Diamond League meeting of 2023 – in Doha this month – with the second today, in Rabat. But it is when athletics’ top tier of events come to Europe this week that the action really starts to ramp up.

For all the remarkable success of Scottish athletes over recent seasons, this summer promises to be one of the most intriguing in years.

It is well accepted that it is easier to get to the top than it is to stay there. And for one athlete in particular, this theory is going to be tested over the coming months.

Jake Wightman’s world championships winning run in Oregon last July was astonishing. It was not just one of Scottish athletics’ best achievements but one of Scottish sport’s greatest feats.

His performance was hardly out of the blue – he had been mixing with the world’s best middle-distance runners for a number of years – but few expected to see him become world 1500m champion last summer.

And so, of all the talking points that this summer is going to produce, what will be most interesting to observe will be how Wightman handles the notoriously tricky task of backing up the best result of his life.

After all, how can he possibly live up to his heroics from last summer, which, in addition to his world gold saw him also collect Commonwealth bronze and European silver?

But for all the suggestions of the increased pressure on Wightman’s shoulders, the counter argument is that he has no pressure on him.

He never wins another race in his life? Fine, he will always be a world champion.

There is little doubt that Wightman will be desperate, as world champion, to have a good season – what world champion doesn’t want to put on a good show? – but in so many ways there is almost no pressure on him. He has reached the pinnacle, he no longer needs to worry that his career will end with him feeling he has failed to fulfil potential. Rather, he can go for it, with few inhibitions.

While I am do not predict that Wightman will successfully defend his title come the World Championships in Budapest in August, I think he will have a very, very good summer despite an injury-interrupted winter.

Josh Kerr will be one of Wightman’s direct competitors and this summer is huge for the 25-year-old. Having won Olympic bronze in 2021 big things were predicted for the US-based Edinburgh man both by Kerr and by observers.

But, by his own standards, 2022 was a disappointment. Three major championships came and went without Kerr making it on to the podium, never mind the top step that he so desperately aspires to.

Kerr’s never one to shy away from a challenge and so it is likely his frustration will have only served to fuel his desire to excel, and, having been entirely overshadowed by Wightman last year, he has a point to prove that he is not going to be a one-hit wonder.

Completing the trio of 1500m runners is Neil Gourley who, despite having always been a step or two behind Wightman and Kerr in terms of achievements throughout his career, has shown signs over the winter that he has moved up a level. His first major championships medal – a silver at the European Indoor Championships behind world No.1 Jakob Ingebrigtsen – was a milestone in his career. There is a sense for the 28-year-old Glaswegian that it is now or never if he is going to make his mark outdoors.

Laura Muir has been, by far, Scotland’s most consistent performer on the track in recent years, with the 30-year-old now holding a full set of major championships medals.

However, her winter was thrown into disarray when she and training partner Jemma Reekie abruptly split with coach Andy Young in March. It meant both had to quickly formulate a plan without the guidance of their long-term coach, with the success – or not – of their ad hoc training schedule only going to be obvious once they get into the thick of their season.

Muir is likely to be relatively unaffected – someone as bright and as experienced as she is will know what she needs to do to get herself into excellent condition.

But how will the split have affected Reekie? After an impressive 2021 – she was fourth in the Olympic 800m final – she suffered in 2022, primarily due to having glandular fever ahead of last season. Reekie needs to work out how to get herself back on track. How effectively she has managed to do this alone remains to be seen.

For all of Scotland’s middle-distance success in recent seasons, it is Eilish McColgan who stole so many of the headlines last year. The distance runner had an incredible 2022, winning four major championships medals, including Commonwealth gold, in the space of a fortnight.

This year has already seen her break the British half marathon record and 10,000m record.

The one thing missing from McColgan’s resume now is success at a global major championship.

With her switch to the marathon imminent – she was due to make her marathon debut last month in London before a last-minute injury derailed her plans, this season may be McColgan’s last chance to make a real impact on the track.