As the end of 2019 approaches we look back at a packed year where Scottish athletes excelled across World Championships, World Cups, Grand Slams, European Championships and European Games. And what a year it was, here are just some of the highlights.
At home and abroad Scottish athletes did the nation proud, with many outstanding performances recognised at the Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards where rifle shooter Seonaid McIntosh scooped the top award as Scottish Sportsperson of the Year. Following her historic World Championship win at the end of 2018, Seoniad cemented her place at the top of the sport with World Cup silver in Munich, the first ever British medal in this event by a female athlete, silver again three months later in Rio de Janeiro in the 10m Air Rifle and gold in the 50m Rifle 3P, the first ever World Cup Gold in a rifle event for a British female athlete since the World Cup circuit came into being in 1985. A rise to World and European No. 1 and a World record capped a fantastic year.
Another popular winner was boxer Josh Taylor who claimed Sporting Moment of the Year for his first world title with a points victory against Ivan Baranchyk in the IBF Super-lightweight title bout in Glasgow, knocking down the previously unbeaten Belarusian twice in the sixth round. He went on to seal his place in Scottish boxing history as he beat Regis Prograis on points to become the unified IBF and WBA super-lightweight champion and win the World Super Series as he inflicted his American opponent’s first loss in 25 fights en route to the Muhammad Ali Trophy, while also claiming the WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine belts. In women’s boxing Hannah Rankin claimed the IBO World title while there was a first amateur major championship medal for a Scottish female boxer as Vicky Glover took European U22 bronze.
Scotland hosted a wealth of major sporting events including the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow where Laura Muir became the first athlete ever to successfully defend two titles as she stormed to a sensational ‘double double’ over 1500m and 3000m titles in her home city. There was silver too for Chris O’Hare over 3000m. Stirling hosted the World Wheelchair Curling Championships with Scotland taking a sensational silver medal, beating defending champions Norway in the semi-finals, while Gleneagles hosted a memorable win for Europe in the Solheim Cup captained by Scotland’s own Catriona Matthew. Adam Hall and Alex Dunn played their home advantage to become the first Scottish pair to win the Scottish Badminton Open Men’s Doubles title for 36 years and most recently Glasgow’s Tollcross played host to the European Short Course Swimming Championships where Duncan Scott and Scott McLay hit the podium.
Further afield Duncan Scott had already claimed two World Championships medals – an individual bronze and a stunning Medley Relay leg to anchor Great Britain to gold, recording the second fastest freestyle split in history to come from over a second behind. Callum Hawkins put in an inspirational performance to take 4th place in the Marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha while Laura Muir was stunned to finish 5th in 3.55.76 in one of the fastest women’s 1500m races in history. At the World Para-Athletics Championships in Dubai Maria Lyle struck a sensational double gold in the sprints while Kayleigh Haggo and Gavin Drysdale both broke World Records and made history as the first ever IPC world champions in Race Running. Jo Butterfield took silver in the F51 Club and there was bronze for Sammi Kinghorn in the T53 100m.
Sally Conway celebrated her first World Judo Championship medal with bronze in Tokyo back in August to complete her collection of major championship medals, having already made Olympic, European and Commonwealth podiums. Neil Fachie with pilot Matt Rotherham successfully defended their World Championship title in the Tandem B Sprint, despite a spectacular crash at almost 75kmph on the final bend, also taking silver in the Kilo. Toni Shaw made a spectacular World Para-Swimming Championships debut as she won six medals: 2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze while fellow Scots Stephen Clegg (silver), Scott Quin (silver) and Louis Lawlor (bronze) also reaching the podium. There was Mixed Synchro World Cup gold for Grace Reid and a British Record in 3m Springboard, Amy Connell took European Karate bronze, Stephen McGuire took World Boccia Open gold and bronze in Hong Kong and there was European Championships silver for Robyn Love with the GB Wheelchair Basketball team.
Jacob Adkin won European Mountain Running Championships gold, David McNamee won World Ironman Championships bronze, Stewart Anderson and Julie Forrest won World Indoor Bowls Championships Singles titles and there was women’s silver and men’s bronze at the European Curling Championships. Beth Potter took European Triathlon gold, it was Badminton Singles silver for Kirsty Gilmour at the European Games and there was a historic day for Scottish Squash as the men claimed European Team bronze while the women finished 4th, their first semi-final for 14 years. Katie Archibald took World Championships silver in the Team Pursuit and won three medals at the European Championships including gold in the Team Pursuit alongside fellow Scot Neah Evans.
The Scotland Women’s National Team created history as they competed at their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup, defying the odds to qualify. Shelley Kerr’s side inspired a new generation of players as they travelled out to France backed by a large travelling support, with a television audience of 6.1 million watching their opening match against England indicative of the level of support back home. Alex Marshall and Paul Foster won their fourth Men’s Pairs gold together in dramatic fashion at the 2019 World Indoor Championships, adding silver in the Pairs and gold in the Fours with Derek Oliver and Ronnie Duncan at the Atlantic Rim Championships as Scotland won medals in seven of the eight disciplines. And of course there was a glorious return to the tennis court for Andy Murray, winning the Queen’s Club Men’s Doubles with Feliciano Lopez and beat Stan Wawrinka in the European Open final for his first Singles title in two years following hip surgery.
A stellar year for Scottish sport and the future looks bright with top results at the junior level including Team Scotland Awards Young Athlete of the Year winner Charlie Aldridge, crowned the 2019 World Junior Champion in Cross-Country Mountain Bike, the first gold medal and rainbow jersey ever to be won by a British male in the cross-country discipline. Katie Shanahan returned from the European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku as the most decorated British athlete across all sports with three individual gold, setting new championships records in all three events, and three silver medals in relay events. There was also World Junior Championships bronze for Archie Goodburn in 50 Breaststroke, World Junior Shooting Championships bronze in the Skeet for David McNeil and two silver medals at the World Junior Para-Athletics Championships for Abbie McNally to name but a few.
Thoughts now turn to the new decade with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon. Scottish athletes are working hard to ensure that they are not only selected, but ready to compete with distinction for Team GB. With Scottish athletes set to be in action across a huge range of other World, European and international events, there is a wealth of sport to look forward to over the coming year. We wish all athletes, coaches, officials and supporters a very happy festive season and a successful 2020.