90 Years of Track & Field Stars as Athletics Steps into Sport Focus

August 7, 2019

Team Scotland’s second most successful Commonwealth Games sport, Athletics is next up in our ‘Celebrating Our Past, Building Our Future’ Sport Focus, which features all 25 sports in which Scotland has competed at the Commonwealth Games.

Look out for everything Athletics related on our website and social media channels in the coming month as we follow Scotland’s stars of track and field from their first appearance in 1930, to their five-medal haul at Gold Coast 2018.

Athletics at the Commonwealth Games

One of the six sports included in the first Commonwealth Games in 1930, Athletics has been contested at every Games to date. At the first Games in 1930 there were 19 events for men on the programme with nine women’s events first added in 1934. Over subsequent Games events were added to the women’s programme until, with the addition of the 3000m Steeplechase in 2006, the programmes became identical with the exception of the now discontinued 50km Walk and a Heptathlon for women in place of Decathlon for men. Para-Sport events were first contested in 2002 and have remained on the programme ever since, though the categories and disciplines included change from Games to Games.

With 75 medals: 18 gold, 23 silver and 34 bronze, Athletics is second only to Aquatics in terms of Scotland’s most successful sport at the Commonwealth Games. Scottish athletes have won medals at every Commonwealth Games to date, with the exception of Cardiff 1958.

Sprinter Allan Wells holds the prestigious position of being Athletics’ most successful athlete, winning four gold, one silver and one bronze for Scotland over two Commonwealth Games. He topped the Scottish all-time list of top Games athletes across all sports until the Gold Coast 2018 Games when lawn bowler Alex Marshall claimed top sport by winning his fifth Commonwealth Games gold. Liz McColgan is Scotland’s top female athlete with two gold and a bronze from two Games.

Find out more about Athletics in the Commonwealth Games, including the competition format, rules and equipment on our dedicated Athletics page.

Scotland’s Commonwealth Champions

Scotland were straight off the mark at the inaugural Commonwealth Games in Hamilton in 1930 as Dunky Wright took Marathon gold ahead of England’s Sam Ferris and Canada’s Johnny Miles, Scotland’s only medal in Athletics of those Games. Four years later it was bronze for Wright but Frank Hunter stepped up to become Scotland’s second gold medallist with victory in the 440 yards Hurdles, also taking bronze in the 4 x 440 yards Relay. There was no gold in 1938, David Young with silver in the Discus Scotland’s only Athletics medallist, but the Scots were back to winning ways in 1950 as Duncan Clark struck gold in the Hammer.

The Marathon again produced gold in 1954 as Joseph McGhee took victory following the collapse of England’s world record holder Jim Peters in the closing stages and in 1966 Scotland once again took the top step of the Marathon podium through Jim Alder. Edinburgh 1970 proved to be the first Games in which Scotland won more than one gold medal in Athletics and remains the sport’s most successful Games to date as Lachie Stewart took the 10,000m title, Ian Stewart the 5,000m, Rosemary Wright the 800m and Rosemary Payne the Discus in front of a home crowd at Meadowbank Stadium.

Rosemary Payne couldn’t quite defend her title four years later in Christchurch, her Discus silver the only medal for Athletics, but 1978 saw Allan Wells come to prominence with gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m, followed by a second gold alongside David Jenkins, Drew McMaster and Cameron Sharp in the 4 x 100m Relay. Four years later Wells was back with another golden double – this time in the 100m and 200m, the latter in a dead heat with England’s Mike McFarlane – before also taking 4 x 100m Relay bronze to give him the title of Scotland’s most successful Games competitor with a tally that would not be bettered for the next 36 years. The 1982 Games also saw Meg Ritchie take Discus gold in a Games Record of 62.98m, four metres ahead of her nearest rival.

The home Games of Edinburgh 1986 saw the Scots bring home six Athletics medals but only one gold courtesy of Liz Lynch, who finished nearly 12 seconds clear in the 10,000m final. Now competing as Liz McColgan, she was once again Scotland’s only Athletics gold medallist four years later in Auckland where she defended her 10,000m title and added bronze in the 3,000m behind team mate Yvonne Murray in silver. Murray stepped up to the 10,000m at Victoria 1994 and onto the top step of the podium, winning what would prove to be Scotland’s last Athletics gold for 20 years before Libby Clegg, guided by Mikhail Huggins, had the Hampden home crowd on their feet with a sensational win in the T12 100m at Glasgow 2014.

Team Scotland Athletics Gold Medallists

Hamilton 1930 Duncan Wright
London 1934 Frank Hunter
Auckland 1950 Duncan Clark
Vancouver 1954 Joseph McGhee
Kingston 1966 James Alder
Edinburgh 1970 Rosemary Payne, Ian Stewart, Lachie Stewart, Rosemary Stirling
Edmonton 1978 Allan Wells (x2), David Jenkins, Drew McMaster, Cameron Sharp
Brisbane 1982 Allan Wells (x2), Meg Ritchie
Edinburgh 1986 Liz Lynch
Auckland 1990 Liz McColgan (nee Lynch)
Victoria 1994 Yvonne Murray
Glasgow 2014 Libby Clegg & Mikhail Huggins

Click here for a full list of Team Scotland’s Athletics medallists

Youth Games Success

At the Commonwealth Youth Games, just as in the main Games, Athletics is a core sport and must be included on the sports programme. Scottish athletes have won at least one Athletics medal at every Youth Games to date, including at Samoa 2015 where all six athletes selected won medals, winning three silver and four bronze between them.

In 2004, javelin thrower James Campbell and 1500m runner Morag McLarty were Scotland’s first Youth Games gold medallists in Athletics and were followed by Tom Holligan with 200m gold in 2011 and Erin Wallace with 1500m gold in 2017. James, Morag and Erin all went on to compete as seniors at the Commonwealth Games, with Erin competing in Triathlon at Gold Coast 2018.

Others who competed in the Youth Games before going on to compete for Team Scotland in the Commonwealth Games include Pune 2008 representatives Lynsey Sharp, Chris O’Hare, Eilish McColgan and Beth Potter, who all went on to represent Team Scotland at Glasgow 2014 and Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Scotland at the Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games is the only occasion where Scotland gets to compete in a multi-sport event as a nation in its own right and is one of only six countries to have competed in every Commonwealth Games since their inception in Hamilton in 1930. Represented by 15 athletes participating in six sports at those first Games, winning a very creditable 10 medals, Scotland have gone on to win medals at every Games since.

Edinburgh became the first city to hold the Games twice in 1970 and 1986 and also became the first city to host the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Scotland hosted the Games for a third time when Glasgow welcomed athletes and officials to the XXth Commonwealth Games which was held from 23rd July – 3rd August 2014. Team Scotland celebrated their most successful Games in history, winning a total of 53 medals and went on to record their highest overseas medal tally ever at Gold Coast 2018.

Find out more about the Commonwealth Games and Team Scotland’s past success in our Past Games section.

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