Steph Twell ran a brave and well judged race to claim Team Scotland’s first athletics medal in the women’s 1500m at the Delhi Commonwealth Games. Remarkably, her success was the first ever Games medal in this event for a Scot, but it was well-deserved after the 21-year old took the initiative and forced the pace in the final 600 metres, just as the fast finishers began to bunch up behind her.
As Twell said afterwards, she ran “with heart and with passion,” hugging the inside of the track in the early stages as she kept her position towards the head of a densely packed group. For much of the race she had three Kenyans – including Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Langat – on her shoulder, and, en masse, they attacked at the bell.
As Langat kicked for home, Nikki Hamblin followed and Twell staged a late charge to battle it out with the New Zealander for silver. In fact, a strong finish almost saw the Scot overhaul Hamblin, but she was more than happy to settle for bronze – her first medal in a major championship.
“I just hung on,” said Twell immediately afterwards. “I took the race by the scruff of the neck and held my presence in lane one.
“Even at 400m to go, with all the Kenyans in front of me, I just thought, ‘Don’t give in now, it’s not the end of the race.’
“I’ve always been known for not finishing as strong, but I’m getting stronger each race and I hit it hard. I think you’ve got to run with your heart and with passion and that’s what I did today.”
Lee McConnell and Chris Baillie, both medallists at the Games in Melbourne in 2006, were also in action in the women’s 400m and men’s 110m hurdles. McConnell, in the outside lane, finished fifth, and admitted she was disappointed not to claim a third consecutive Commonwealth Games medal.
“I didn’t quite get into a quick enough rhythm,” said McConnell. “I was down at 200m and then having to work hard between there and 300 to make up. Then I was working even harder in the home straight, but you can’t let these girls get away and get back in contention.
“I was aware of [Amantle] Montsho [the eventual winner in a Games record] inside me from around 200, which made it difficult as well.”
While acknowledging that this “might well be my last [individual] 400m for Scotland,” McConnell said she would now turn her attention to the relay event, and also the 200m. “I’ll definitely do the 200,” she said. “It’s not my main event, and I have no expectations – I can’t remember the last time I ran it – but it’s an opportunity to run the event in a major championship, so I’d like to do it.”
Baillie, meanwhile, acknowledged that he’d been ill on the eve of his race, though he refused to offer that as an excuse after he placed eighth in his final. “I didn’t come out the blocks too badly, I was just too low at the first hurdle,” said Baillie, who has suffered a catalogue of injuries since 2006 – from a stress fracture of his left foot that put him out for two seasons, followed by back, hamstring and calf problems – and was competing here in his first major event since the Melbourne Games.
“I was a bit off balance, it put me behind, and I was chasing after that,” Baillie continued. “I got tight, tried to fight it, and it just didn’t go right for me. I didn’t run well in the heat, but I could tell myself I made the final.
“I had a touch of the Delhi bellys this afternoon, so that wasn’t ideal. But it happens – I don’t like making excuses.
“I really enjoy being amongst these guys, and I feel I should be able to compete with them. I’ve always said I’d like to run in Glasgow. I’ll be 33 at the time, but I’ll just have to see how it goes and how my body is. If my body can hold up, I’d love to be there.”
The final event of Friday’s athletics programme saw Freya Murray finish a battling fifth in the women’s 10,000m. “I felt great the first half of the race and I made an attempt to cover every move, but towards the end of the race I just didn’t have it,” said Murray. “The conditions were tough, but I was as well prepared as I could be.
“But the atmosphere out there was amazing,” added Murray. “I can’t wait for our turn in Glasgow.”