Encouraged by her sister Iona to tag along with her to their local athletics club Pitreavie, primary school pupil Eilidh Child soon found her competitive streak and quickly left her sister and many others trailing in her wake. Such was her enthusiasm she even resorted to setting up homemade hurdles on her driveway with cones and garden canes used to hone her technique. Since then Eilidh has not looked back and has progressed steadily through from junior to senior international ranks and is now Scotland’s leading 400m hurdler.
Over the last two seasons Eilidh has achieved no less than 13 qualification times for selection for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October, a quite remarkable feat. And to top that further, in Poland last month she broke the Scottish 400m hurdles record in a time of 55.17s to win the race and replace Sinead Dudgeon’s 11 year old record of 55.24s and secured her place on the Great Britain team for the European Championships in Barcelona later this month.
These significant achievements have resulted in her being named as the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month for June, jointly with badminton player Susan Egelstaff, and she has received £500 towards her training and competition costs. The scheme, being run by Commonwealth Games Scotland in conjunction with Clydesdale Bank as part of its programme of support to Team Scotland, is open to athletes in any of the 17 participating sports who are eligible to represent Scotland at this year’s Games in Delhi.
On hearing the news, the 23 year old from Kinross said: “It is really rewarding to be recognised in this way. Family and friends are always aware of what I am achieving, but it is really nice when others outside your support network recognise what you’ve done and a big thank you to Clydesdale Bank for this award.”
Eilidh is quite clear about ‘what’ and ‘who’ has helped her make such a massive break-through onto the senior international stage this last two years.
“I switched coach at the end of the 2008 season and teamed up with Stuart Hogg. He upped my training and made it much more specific to me and increased the intensity of it. Firstly he got me in much better shape, improving my general fitness. He also helped me work on my speed. I have always been strong and had good endurance which is vital for my event, but I didn’t have great speed. This is what we have been working on and it has made a huge difference.”
“The money from Clydesdale Bank will go towards travel to more races abroad and to help fund my coach to travel too. It makes such a difference to have my coach with me at a meet. He provides reassurance and keeps me calm or gees me up depending on how I am feeling. At a practical level he helps to get the equipment out and helps me with my drills.”
Eilidh has stuck to her roots and still trains at Pitreavie Athletic Centre in Dunfermline six times a week, with two weights sessions in the gym and the rest on the track. She also benefits from the high performance expertise of the sportscotland institute network. Explaining she said: “I get brilliant support from Tayside & Fife institute of sport. They provide me with access to regular physiotherapy and the doctor does blood tests to make sure I am healthy. A nutritionist also works with me. This means that my life is so much easier and that all I need to worry about is training and they look after everything else. They also give great support to my coach too.”
The Athlete of the Month award is a timely boost to Eilidh’s preparations as she heads out to Portugal for warm weather training in advance of the European Championships in Barcelona, where she is aiming to make the finals and demonstrate she has established herself amongst the top flight of European athletics. With her new found confidence and fitness who would bet against her. Her family will be there in force and sister Iona will be the first to remind Eilidh that it was her who put her on the road to international success.
After a short rest it will then be back to refocusing and making her final training and preparation for Delhi and what will be the culmination of an unusually long season for track and field athletes. Looking forward to Delhi she said: “It would be fabulous to represent Scotland in a multi-sport event. I am sure there will be a great vibe amongst the Scottish team and I am really looking forward to it.”
Wherever Eilidh goes this season she is certainly benefiting from a superb support network in her family, her coach and the institute experts. She also benefits from support from Perth & Kinross Council who allow her to work just part time as a PE teacher, to enable her to fit in her training. This means she also has a school full of young supporters keen to cheer her on and take inspiration from all her achievements.