Scotland’s Eilidh Child won rare but well-earned praise from her renowned coach Malcolm Arnold after an outstanding weekend in helping Great Britain & NI (338 points) finish third behind Germany (347) and winners Russia (354.5) in the European Team Championship at Gateshead.
The 26-year-old Pitreavie athlete at last put together the sort of performance her veteran mentor believed she was capable of, winning the 400 metres hurdles on Saturday in a Scottish record of 54.42 seconds and smashing her own previous best by more then half a second. She followed that up yesterday by leading off the 4x400m relay team to victory in impeccable style in 51.7sec, the second fastest time despite being on first leg.
“After three years hard labour it finally worked but I’ve told her that when she finally runs under 54 seconds I’ll call her a hurdler,” said a delighted Arnold who has guided so many world class one-lap hurdlers including 1972 Olympic champion John Akii Bua of Uganda and 2011 World champion Dai Greene of Wales.
Given the windy conditions at Gateshead on Saturday, Child, who is now the fourth fastest all-time in the UK for the event, might well have threatened the 54 seconds “barrier” in calmer conditions. “I didn’t expect to win by as much as I did and there’s definitely more to come,” said Child. “I used the wind on the back straight and started to attack and I’m really pleased; if I can get calmer conditions I definitely think there’s a chunk more to come off and I’m so eager for a final place in Moscow now.” Possibly in Sunday’s Birmingham Diamond League meeting or in next month’s British Trials for the Moscow World Championships, she should clash with her arch British rival Perri Shakes-Drayton, who sat out the relay yesterday.
That allowed another 400m hurdler Megan Beesley (53.20) to come in on leg three, with Shana Cox on leg two and 2008 Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu (51.00) anchoring the team home in an overall time of 3:28.60, reasonable in the miserably wet and windy conditions which forced the men’s pole vault and women’s high jump to be held indoors.
Scottish athlete, Kirsten McAslan, was not used in the 4x400m relay though she might have bettered Beesley’s effort. The British men also won their 4x400m relay in a relatively modest time of 3:05.37 while the men’s sprint relay had a superb victory on Saturday in 38.40sec and Olympic champion Mo Farah clocked a personal best of 50.89sec for one lap in burning off his rivals in an otherwise slow 5000m.
The weather yesterday did not prevent Sophie Hitchon adding nearly a metre to her British hammer record with a fine throw of 72.97m.
Team captain Shakes-Drayton had switched to the flat 400m to such good effect on Saturday that she also chopped almost half a second off her best, from 50.98sec to 50.50, with a performance which suggests she might have a problem deciding which event to choose for Moscow in August. She still leads the British 400m hurdles lists with 53.77sec.
Lennie Waite was the other success among the five Scots in the GB team, taking an unexpected fifth place in the 3000m steeplechase in a season’s fastest of 9:56.19, her second Commonwealth Games qualifier.
David Bishop was seventh in the 3000m in 8:06.18, the second fastest by a Scot this season, but Mark Dry could finish only 11th in the hammer with 68.30m – his best is 74.46m.
Eilidh Child’s clubmate Ryan Oswald clocked 10.64sec, the fastest 100m by a Scot this season and Guy Learmonth (Lasswade) was seventh in an 800m in 1:49.58 in Bilbao.