Scotland's Top Five Commonwealth Games - Athletics

August 27, 2019

Scotland’s second most successful Commonwealth Games sport, with 75 medals won, Athletics has been a core sport on the Games programme since they began in 1930.  From the highest number of medals won to record performances and historic firsts, here are just some of the highlights from almost 90 years years of Team Scotland medal success.

Edinburgh 1970 – Golden Quartet on Home Soil

Rosemary Stirling, Ian Stewart, Lachie Stewart and Rosemary Payne struck gold in front of a home crowd at Meadowbank Stadium for four athletics victories, a gold medal tally that has never been matched. Stirling won 800m gold with a beautifully timed sprint finish, just three hundredths of a second ahead of England’s Pat Lowe and less than a tenth ahead of bronze medallist Cheryl Peasley of Australia. Ian Stewart led home a Scottish one-two in the 5,000m as Ian McCafferty took silver after an incredible final lap which saw the two Scots leave Kenya’s Kip Keino in their wake in the closing stages. Scotland’s golden quartet was completed by Rosemary Payne in the Discus, her husband, Howard, making it a family double with Hammer gold for England.

Jim Alder, having won gold and bronze four years earlier in Kingston, completed his set of Commonwealth Games medals with silver in the Marathon and the medal tally was rounded out by bronze medals for Moira Walls in the High Jump and for Bill Sutherland in the 20 Miles Walk. This was the first Games ever to be measured in metric rather than imperial units. Several records were broken including a world record for Jamaica’s Marilyn Neufville as she won 400m gold in 51.02.

London 1934 – First Female Medallists Add to Ten-Medal Tally

A highlight of the 1934 Games was the inclusion of events for women in athletics, with careful consideration given not to include events that were considered ‘too exhaustive’. The running events were restricted to the short sprints and shortened relays instead of the 4 x 440 yard relay as per the men’s programme. Events on the field were high jump, long jump and javelin. Nevertheless this was a breakthrough for women in sport that would one day lead to full recognition and programming for women’s athletics on the international stage.

Cathie Jackson, Joan Cunningham, Margaret Mackenzie & Sheena Dobbie capitalised, winning Scotland’s first women’s athletics medal with bronze in the 660 yards Relay. Frank Hunter’s 440yds Hurdles gold led a 10 medal tally for the Scots – the best ever athletics total, and not tied until Brisbane 1982. Donald Robertson and Duncan Wright won Marathon silver and bronze respectively and there was a string of bronze medals for Ian Young (100 yards), John Mitchie (High Jump), William Mackenzie (Hammer), James Stothard (880 yards) and both men’s 4 x 110 yards and 4 x 440 yards Relay teams.

Brisbane 1982 – Wells’ Golden Double Leads Top Tally

Athletics led the Scottish medal charge in Brisbane with a record-equalling 10 medals including three gold courtesy of a sprint double from Allan Wells and victory in the Women’s Discus for Meg Ritchie. Reigning Commonwealth and Olympic champion, Wells continued his dominance, his win in the 100m seeing him nearly dip under the 10 second barrier followed by a dead heat in the 200m with England’s Mike McFarlane, while Ritchie was also in a class of her own with a Games record to seal discus gold.

Anne Clarkson bravely won 800m silver despite two broken ribs, whilst Scotland’s sprint dominance in Athletics was shown by Cameron Sharp’s bronze in both the 100m and 200m and the Men’s 4x100m Relay team who won bronze to follow their 1978 gold.  The Women’s 4x400m Relay team also came away with a bronze to match.

Ritchie was not the only success on the field with bronze medals won in the Pole Vault by Graham Eggleton and in the Hammer by Chris Black.

Auckland 1990 – McColgan Defends 10,000m Title

Liz McColgan’s win in the 10,000m was Scotland’s only gold medal on the track in Auckland as she became the first Scottish woman ever to successfully defend a Commonwealth Games title in Athletics. This historic victory, almost 10 second clear of silver medallist Jill Hunter of England, came four days after winning bronze in the 3,000m, just behind team mate Yvonne Murray who improved on her bronze in the same event from 1986. Murray would go on to keep the 10,000m title in Scottish hands at the next Games in Victoria, completing her full set of Commonwealth Games medals.

In the men’s events there was silver for Mark Davidson, David Strang, Tom McKean and Brian Whittle in the 4 x 400m Relay behind a Games record breaking run from Kenya, while Geoff Parsons took bronze in the High Jump, tying with Milton Ottey of Canada.

Gold Coast 2018 – Highest Athletics Medal Tally for 24 Years

Despite the early start to the competitive season, there were good performances from the Scottish team and, with five medals, Athletics celebrated their biggest medal tally since 1990. Beth Potter, selected primarily for Triathlon, also competed in the 10,000m on the track, marking a historic first.

Hammer thrower, Mark Dry led the way, replicating his bronze medal winning feat from Glasgow 2014 with his final throw. Flag bearer Eilidh Doyle took a third successive silver medal over the 400m Hurdles, while there was also silver for 18-year-old Maria Lyle in the para-sport Women’s T35 100m on her Commonwealth Games debut. Jake Wightman was the final medallist on the track, bouncing back from the agony of a fourth place finish in the Men’s 1500m, with bronze in the 800m. There were also two near misses for Samantha Kinghorn. She finished fourth in the para-sport Women’s 1500m T54 on the track and again she came agonisingly close with another fourth place in the Women’s Wheelchair Marathon T54.

However, there was final day drama and contrasting fortunes for Scotland’s two Marathon men. There was on outpouring of concern and well wishes for long-time leader Callum Hawkins, as he succumbed to the heat with just a mile to go, while teammate Robbie Simpson came through to claim bronze and secure Team Scotland’s final medal of the Games.

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