Athletes are ready, set, go for a cracking 2014

Chris O'Hare. Scotland captain Eilidh Child is pictured below
Chris O'Hare. Scotland captain Eilidh Child is pictured below
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If anyone doubted that 2014 was going to be a big year for Scottish sport then they need only take in some of Saturday’s televised Sainsbury’s Glasgow Indoor International at the Emirates Arena to be convinced.

The event promises to be another sell-out and little wonder, given the galaxy of stars on show.

The Scottish team who will be taking part for the first time in their own right in this 25-year-old meeting against Great Britain, USA and a Commonwealth Select, can look forward to some raucous support from the 5000 crowd who will be keen to assess the chances of those already in or on the brink of making the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games team for July.

Many thought that some of the intimacy would be lost when the event moved from the much smaller Kelvin Hall, where there were some memorable moments, not least when the crowd raised the rafters as Tom McKean won the 1990 European Indoor 800 metres.

But if last year’s inaugural meeting at the new arena near Parkhead is anything to go by, the decibel count will certainly set new records this time.

It was more than 40 years ago in the spartan surroundings of an old aircraft hanger at RAF Cosford that former Edinburgh Academy schoolboy and European 400m champion David Jenkins set a Scottish record of 78.0 seconds for the little run 600m. But that mark and the British best of 76.37 belonging to England’s Ikem Billy from 1990 will both be under attack tomorrow.

Guy Learmonth (Lasswade), who returned from training in Tenerife last weekend in sizzling form, is convinced he can beat Jenkins’ mark, while Andrew Osagie the current best GB 800m runner, is capable of going under Billy’s time.

Learmonth, fastest in Europe over 800m so far this year, will fly north from Loughborough today after a week of exams.

Another Glasgow 2014 Games pick, Chris O’Hare (Edinburgh AC), who has been back home in Peebles since completing the cross country season at Tulsa University, is given the 1500m spot, as befits a World Championship finalist, and faces James Magut of Kenya, David Torrence of USA and British rival Charlie Grice.

OHare will be making his debut on the Glasgow track. “I’ve only been to the Emirates to watch, when my younger brother Dominic was running in a league race, but it looks a great venue and I’m sure with the international sold out the atmosphere will be a little different,” he said. “For some of us this will be ideal preparation for Hampden.”

Former EAC 800m runner Mark Mitchell (Forres) has been handed the short straw in the 3000m which includes American and former Kenyan legend Bernard Lagat, the 39-year-old World Indoor champion who has 12 global medals to his name.

A four-man race in a tough distance event is not perhaps what he would have wished for so soon after missing a season through injury and he may try to tag on to GB rep Andy Vernon for as long as possible.

Team captain Eilidh Child (Pitreavie), who blossomed in the indoor season last winter, faces US relay gold medallist Francena McCorory in the women’s 400m with World champion Christine Ohuruogu’s younger sister Victoria wearing the GB colours.

It is a pity the organisers have not included a women’s high jump, especially with two Emma Nuttall and Jayne Nisbet both already chosen for Scotland’s Commonwealth Games team, but there is quality aplenty in the men’s event where South Queensferry’s Allan Smith jumps against Olympic silver and bronze medallists from London 2012. Erik Kynard (USA) and Smith’s Birmingham training partner Robbie Grabatz should both soar above 2.30m, the target Smith has in mind for this season.

Scotland are represented by Capital-based John Carr in the long jump.