Commonwealth Games: Lothian stars eye gold

Jayne Nisbet. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Jayne Nisbet. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Stars from around the world will arrive for 11 days of top sporting action when the 2014 Commonwealth Games gets under way in 100 days’ time.

For many Lothians hopefuls, the dream of competing for your country on home soil is now in sight as the selection process draws to a close next month. While many have already secured their places, others will have their fingers crossed that recent performances will see them handed a Scotland vest in Glasgow.

Many big names, such as European 800m champion Lynsey Sharp, have yet to achieve the required qualifying mark and are guaranteed a nervy few weeks as they battle to book their spot in this summer’s showpiece.

With the opening ceremony at Celtic Park on July 23 growing ever nearer, we’ve taken a look at the local stars desperate to line up for Scotland in the Games.

AQUATICS

A host of local swimmers are eyeing places in the Scotland team which will compete at Tollcross and, while many have gained the necessary qualifying time, none have yet been guaranteed selection.

Olympic stars Michael Jamieson and Caitlin McClatchey, both affiliated to Edinburgh University, are sure to get the nod but clubmates Kathryn Johnstone, Corrie Scott, Calum Tait, Craig McNally, above – a competitor at Delhi 2010 – and Andrew Strachan are awaiting confirmation of their place.

Warrender swimmers Lewis Smith, Craig Hamilton and Dan Wallace hope to be involved along with East Lothian’s Mark Tully.

And Warrender’s Craig Benson, who just missed out on a 100 metre breaststroke final place at the 2012 Olympics, only gained the qualifying time for Glasgow in the British Championships on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, in the diving at the Commonwealth Pool, all eyes will be on Grace Reid, 17, and James Heatly, 16, with both having achieved the qualifying standard required.

BADMINTON

With six gold medal events including men and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles and a mixed team event, badminton is another sport that is expected to boast representation from here in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

With the sport’s official team announcement not expected until May 13, Jillie Cooper, is a strong candidate to be included having already met the set criteria through her current world ranking. Robert Blair, a 2004 Olympian, has already achieved medals this year from events in Scotland, Germany and Sweden where his experience should stand him in good stead if picked.

Martin Campbell, who won bronze at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the singles event in 2008 but now a doubles specialist, will be hoping his most recent victory in Romania with partner Cooper will be enough to convince the selection committee he warrants a position with Paul Van Rietvelde, from Longniddry, also in contention.

CYCLING

THE cycling squad has yet to be announced, but one glaring omission will be former George Watson’s pupil Sir Chris Hoy, who announced last year that he would retire and not compete in Glasgow.

That has opened the door for a new batch of up-and-coming Edinburgh riders and big things are expected of Callum Skinner. He has qualifying times for four disciplines – sprint, team sprint, kilo and keirin – and has had to overcome health scares and injuries to get to the top. In 2011, it was feared he had lymphoma and put his career on hold while tests were conducted, while in 2012 he broke his collarbone in a charity race. He is a medal hope. City of Edinburgh RC’s John Paul and Capital-born trio Bruce Croall, James McCallum and Evan Oliphant are expected to join him in the men’s squad. In the women’s team, Claire Thomas should make the cut, while Louise Archibald and Anne Ewing are on the fringes of the squad. Scotland won one gold, two silvers and one bronze four years ago and seem well-equipped to go well again.

GYMNASTICS

When named in the rhythmic gymnastics squad last week at the age of 15, Livingston lass Lauren Brash was the youngest competitor to be included in Team Scotland. She has represented Team GB at the European Junior Championships and the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

Lauren, , won silver medals in ribbon and overall as well as a bronze in ball at last year’s British Championship.

In the artistic element, a host of West Lothian-based youngsters are waiting eagerly to learn whether they will be lining up at the Hydro. They include Grant Millar, Stephen Tongue, Conner Rajek, Eilidh Craig, Aimee Bryce and Shannon Archer. Lasswade’s Holly Ramage is also in with a shout for when the team is confirmed on May 30.

HOCKEY

EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY players Ian Moodie and Chris Duncan were in the same school class at Balerno’s Dean Park Primary and both are expected to line up for Scotland. They should be joined by the Capital’s Chris Grassick who plays for Surbiton in England and is a member of Team GB, while Grange’s Gary Cameron and Inverleith’s Adam MacKenzie are also in contention. There are eight Edinburgh Uni women in full-time training for the Games: Louise Campbell, Mairi Drummond, Kirstin MacIntosh, Maisie Morris, Nicola Cochrane, Rebecca Merchant, Samantha Judge and Sarah Robertson.

Cala Edinburgh HC’s Amy Brodie is also preparing for Glasgow and looks set to be involved. Both the men’s and women’s teams failed to get past the group stage in Delhi four years ago.

Only Cameron, MacKenzie, Judge and Merchant have played at this level before.

LAWN BOWLS

HALF of the ten-strong Scotland team is made up by bowlers from the Lothians.

They are led by Tranent legend Alex Marshall who will be signing in for his fifth appearance in the event. ‘Tattie’ is eyeing a hat-trick of medals having already claimed a brace of Commonwealth pairs golds.

Marshall is joined by Danderhall’s David Peacock, who will be making his fourth appearance while 2014 will be a second-successive Games for Kirkliston’s Neil Speirs.

In the women’s team, Dean’s Lorraine Malloy will be competing in her second Games on the trot while Cockenzie & Port Seton’s Lauren Baillie, a national pairs winner four times in the last five years, will be the only player making a debut this time.

ATHLETICS

LONDON 2012 Olympic 800m semi-finalist Lynsey Sharp is one of the city’s most decorated athletes, but she still needs to get a final qualifying time for Glasgow. Sidelined for a chunk of 2013 due to an ankle injury, the former Mary Erskine pupil must record one more time of 2:02.80 or less. That should still be well within her compass, especially as she is the 2012 European champion. The 23-year-old is a potential finalist if she is fully fit. Of the athletes already picked for Glasgow, high jumpers and EAC team-mates Emma Nuttall and Jayne Nisbet are perhaps the best chance of a Capital medal, with both expected to make the final. The Lothians are also represented by Lasswade AC’s Guy Learmonth (800m), EAC’s Chris O’Hare (1500m), South Queensferry’s Alan Smith (high jump), Broxburn couple Andy Frost and Susan McKelvie (hammer), Hearts fan Eilidh Child (400m) and EAC’s Sarah Warnock (high jump).

There are also a clutch of athletes still hoping to gain qualifying times and impress selectors, including Gregor McLean (pole vault), Emily Stewart (3k steeplechase), Freya Ross (marathon), Allan Hamilton (long jump) and Kirsty Yates (shot putt).

Out of the disability athletes, EAC’s Libby Clegg is a medal contender in the 100m, especially considering that she is 2012 European champion.

BOXING

Prestonpans’ Josh Taylor, at 64kg, is sure to be considered a real medal hope. The 23-year-old Lochend and GB Performance boxer won silver four years ago in Delhi and, having gained Olympic experience since then when he made it to the last-16 at London 2012, Taylor is sure to have aspirations of gold this time round.

Taylor’s club-mate, Lewis Benson, the new 69kg Scottish champion, will enter a box-off against Glenrothes’ Connor Law, who he beat in the Scottish finals just over two weeks ago, on April 26 to determine which fighter will represent Scotland in July.

And Aston Brown, also of coach Terry McCormack’s gym at Lochend, faces an anxious wait to discover if he will be picked for the 75kg berth after relinquishing his national title to Springhill’s Kieran Smith last month.

JUDO

SCOTLAND’S training base in Ratho will provide the stars looking to bag a medal on the mat this summer.

World No.9 Sally Conway is likely to lead the charge and the under-70kg ace should be joined in Glasgow by Sarah Adlington (+78 kg), three-time Olympian Sarah Clark (under-63kg), Patrick Dawson (under-73kg) and James Austin (under-100kg).

Former World and European medallist Euan Burton, currently coaching at Ratho, is planning one last hurrah on home soil in the under 81kg category, while one of his pupils Connie Ramsay (under-57kg) is also hoping to be involved.

SHOOTING

EDINBURGH-BASED Jen McIntosh will hope to use her London 2012 and Commonwealth Games 2010 – where she won two golds and a bronze– experience to the full when she competes in the 10m Air Rifle & 50m Rifle 3P.

Caroline Brownlee, from Edinburgh but now based in Hampshire, competes in the 10m air pistol having been the first female pistol shooter to represent Scotland at Commonwealth Games when the event was held in Delhi.

Full-bore rifle shooter Angus McLeod, from Edinburgh but now living in Warminster, has won the prestigious Queen’s Prize individual and pairs title.

TABLE TENNIS

Broughton High PE teacher Craig Howieson, who made it to the final 32 in Delhi four years ago, has dedicated himself to reaching this year’s event and has done his chances no harm this year.

In January, the 23-year-old beat Scottish No.1 and close friend Gavin Rumgay to win the West of Scotland Table Tennis Grand Prix after spending the best part of a decade trying to beat his opponent.

In Delhi last year, Howieson won a bronze medal (with Rumgay) at the Commonwealth Championships.

WEIGHTLIFTING, WRESTLING AND TRIATHLON

Edinburgh University weightlifter Zach Courtney, a Scottish record holder, has an outside chance of making it to Glasgow.

There are no Lothians wrestlers expected to compete in the Games. However, Edinburgh Wrestling Club, based at Edinburgh Napier University’s Sighthill campus, are looking to nurture some competitors of the future.

There are no triathletes from Edinburgh and the Lothians considered to be in contention for the six positions allocated to Team Scotland this summer.

SQUASH

Cape Town-born Frania Gillen-Buchart, Scottish champion in 2012, heads up the female challenge from Edinburgh, while there’s also a spot for Philadephia-based Capital exile Alexandra Clark. On the men’s side, the city is represented by Harry Leitch. Originally from the Waverley Club, the doubles specialist competed in the 2006 and 2010 Games. Local star Dougie Kempsell, though, missed out on a berth. Squad members Alan Clyne (Inverness), Kevin Moran (Paisley), Greg Lobban (Kessock), and Stuart Crawford (Irvine) all train in Edinburgh.

NETBALL

A TRIO of players with Capital connections will be hoping to make the final 12 for Glasgow.

Gemma Sole, daughter of former Scotland rugby captain David, was first capped in 2010 when studying modern languages and European studies at Bath University. She claims one of her finest sporting moments was helping “Glenbuchat Ladies win a tug-of-war at Lonach Gathering”.

Although born in Australia, Edinburgh resident Rachel Forbes is in the frame for Scotland as is Capital-born Joanne Pettitt.

RUGBY SEVENS

EDINBURGH Rugby winger Lee Jones who is currently on loan at Glasgow, will be hoping to play in his second consecutive Commonwealth Games after he helped Scotland reach the Plate final in Delhi four years ago.

Andy Turnbull also starred in 2010 and, as Scotland’s record holder for tries in the Sevens format with 148 in total, he’ll be expected to play a big role once again. Edinburgh Academy FP Alex Glashan, Dunbar-born Finlay Gillies – who is also a dab hand at badminton and volleyball, having represented East Lothian in both – and Edinburgh back-row Mike Maltman are all in the running for inclusion.