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Inspirational stories that deserve to be told
Introducing our new magazine and a new sporting chapter
MAGAZINE covering women’s sport? Telling amazing stories of inspirational people performing at the highest level in their chosen field? Most of them Scots too? In this old-fashioned format we used to call a print magazine? What are the chances of someone being mad enough to go along with that we hear you say. Well, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Here at Sportswoman we want to introduce you to all of the above. As Scottish Women in Sport founder Maureen McGonigle recounts in her column later in these pages, it’s all down to numbers. Figures that reveal that not only are women athletes not as well paid as their male counterparts, they are not on a level playing field in many other vital areas. The majority of the athletes in the following pages have performed at the highest level across the globe. Some are rightly feted within their chosen sports but many are far from being the household names they should be. A lack of coverage celebrating many of these achievements, leads in turn to a lack of investment in sponsorship. These facts and the overall lack of powerful role models is undoubtedly one of the issues which sees young women less likely than
A lack of coverage celebrating sporting success leads to a lack of role models
their male counterparts to be involved in lifeenhancing sport. Despite our choice of magazine name, which covers everyone from amateur athletes to Olympians and Paralympians, gender isn’t what will drive our content. We just like great stories, no matter the sport, no matter the level, and we want to share them with you. In our first issue we think we’ve found a few that fit the bill. We’ve got a number of athletes battling to qualify for Rio as well as some who have already booked their seat on the plane. Then there’s Paralympian Libby Clegg who is determined to go and cheer on her brother, regardless of how her own campaign turns out. We have the inspirational Katherine Grainger, the adventurous Lee Craigie and amateur running coach, the amazing Ann Lister. In focusing on one of Scotland’s greatest hills, Myrid Ramsay describes a route and journey you won’t get from reading the directions and unfolding a map. Scotland’s most-capped netball player, Lesley MacDonald, and another Olympian, volleyball star Lynne Beattie, share their stories and Charline Joiner her fitness tips. We could go on, but it’s probably better if you just read it for yourself. We hope you like it. Let us know. Enjoy the start of our new journey together.
Sportswoman Magazine www.sportswomanmag.co.uk Sportswoman is published by Sportswoman Magazine Ltd and is also available online as a digital download on our website www.sportswomanmag.co.uk Telephone: 0800 772 0669 For all advertising enquiries contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For all editorial enquiries, including letters, contact: email@example.com Special thanks to Myrid Ramsay cobaltink communications, (cobaltink.co.uk) for design support and hillwalking contribution, Moira Gordon, Stephen Hagen, Labb Digi-
tal (labb.co.uk), Brian McPake, Nick Ponty (nickponty.com) for the cover shot of columnist Charline Joiner and other photographs. Pictures: Press Association, Nick Potts, Ben Duffy/adidas, Chris Blott. Copyright Sportswoman Magazine Ltd 2016. 3
32 All the latest news, including a historic clash for the Scottish Thistles and an award for football star Kim Little. Catriona Matthew criticises the ban on women golfers at Muirfield, plus Scotland’s latest marathon event is unveiled How Hannah Miley and Grace Reid hit top form to claim medals at the European Aquatics championships in London Olympic champion Katherine Grainger on her fight to compete at a fifth Olympic Games and her London 2012 memories My Sporting Life: Netball Scotland’s Lesley MacDonald on her career with the Scottish Thistles and as a coach
Q&A with runner Ann Lister who tells us how she started and what she loves about life pounding the pavements Running gags: We share some of funniest moments from those training runs where anything can happen, and does Rio here I come! Scots 10,000m runner Beth Potter on clinching her place in the team for the Olympics Former mountain bike champion Lee Craigie on her new project aimed at inspiring cycling adventures for women Beach volleyball star Lynne Beattie reveals the less glamous side of a fight to qualify for the Commonwealth Games
Shelley Kerr tells Moira Gordon about why it’s results that matter, no matter where you are managing Team Ford EcoBoost cyclist and fitness trainer Charline Joiner’s pro tips on how to get the most from your training Our Sports Business section talks to award-winning fashion designer Alex Feechan about designing mountain bike apparel Buachaille Etive Mor is the subject of our hillwalking feature, plus your guide to getting the most from walking In our regular feature on disability sport, Paralympian Libby Clegg reveals how Rio will be a family affair
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My dream of sporting equality is a step closer
Says Scottish Women in Sport’s Maureen McGonigle
ARTIN Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream” quote is one of the most powerful taken from a speech in August 1963. His dream was for freedom and equality and an end to hatred. Some may think it is to overstate the case that this quote should now be one that I use to explain my own dream for women and girls in sport, however it does sum up how I feel. My dream is about parity in sport for our Scottish athletes and equal promotion and investment into all areas of sport for women. For a long time this has remained just that: a dream. However things are about to change with the publication of Sportswoman, a new magazine dedicated to women and girls in Scotland. Now I can see that parts of my dream are becoming a reality and I am delighted with that. To take you back just a little bit, Scottish Women in Sport was formed in 2013 and registered as a charity. It was launched with the support of RBS and in the company of Judy Murray and Katherine Grainger and we have grown from strength to strength since then. That, many would say, is a good thing, however it further underlines the need for such an organisation in this day and age. Why Scottish Women in Sport, you ask? I was aware at that time of several organisations down South dedicated to women in sport and also of the shocking statistics, so eloquently recounted by broadcaster Clare Balding, following the 2012 London Olympics. I felt very strongly that Scotland deserved its
Maureen McGonigle is the founder of the charity Scottish Women in Sport own organisation to highlight the inequality that existed in nearly all areas of sport for women in Scotland and decided to do what I could to help redress this disparity. At that time, Balding told of how 0.5 per cent was the total market sponsorship of women’s sport in the UK, with 61.1 per cent for men’s sports over the same period and the remainder accounted for by mixed sport. She went onto to highlight that there was approximately only five per cent of sports media coverage featuring women and for every 53 articles written about men in sport, there was just one about a woman. Now I am aware that currently there are, and have been, moves within other areas of the media to redress the balance, since then, however do they impact and focus on the lives of our Scottish athletes? I’m not so sure. Only one paper, the National, is committed to regular coverage of female athletes in Scotland.
Lack of participation in sport, for whatever reason, from exclusion or choice, can have a detrimental effect on an individual that stays with them throughout their lifetime and means they are lost to sport. This has to be avoided at all costs, not only for the sake of the future of many sports, but also because we are now so much more knowledgeable about the benefits of physical activity and sport on all aspects of our life. Health, education, social skills, leadership skills: sport is becoming the panacea for all ills and that is yet another reason we cannot accept our sportswomen being treated as an afterthought. We need to celebrate and promote their achievements for all to see and to let our young girls know that there is a place and a role for them in every aspect of sport. That is why this publication is vital to progress awareness of women in sport in Scotland and I am delighted to support it. However a word of caution, if we don’t use it, we lose it! You and me and everyone else out there who supports Scottish women in sport, need to support Sportswoman. We need to ensure that the magazine reaches a widespread audience and receives strong financial backing. So, if you are in a position to help through advertising, give them a call. If you have a story, give them a call. This is teamwork. This is what we talk about so often. So let’s get ready for the kick-off and look forward to the end result: a magazine dedicated to, and worthy of, our Scottish sportswomen. For further information go to www.scottishwomeninsport.co.uk
We cannot accept our sportswomen being treated as an afterthought. We need to celebrate and promote their achievements and let girls know there is a place for them 5
News round THISTLES FACE TEST IN NEW ORIAM CENTRE
ON BOARD: Susan Fouquier, RBS Regional Managing Director, Business Banking Scotland at the launch of the Women Active at Work campaign
ACTIVE CAMPAIGN OFF AND RUNNING A SPORTING charity’s campaign to promote the importance of more activity at work is gathering pace. The Woman Active at Work campaign, launched by Scottish Women in Sport (SWIS) has been supported by major employers including Scotland’s largest health trust and the Royal Bank of Scotland. It aims to encourage women back into activity using a buddy system for motivating and rediscovering the joy of playing sport. SWIS founder Maureen McGonigal said: “We’ve had great support from RBS for the launch and we are looking forward to working with selected regional staff members to show how easy a reach the campaign will have to all areas of Scotland. It has also been covered in
the NHSGGC staff magazine with over 180,000 copies circulated. “Its a great time for everyone to start incorporating a little more activity into their day-to-day life and #WomenActive gives some direction to how this can be done.” The campaign is supported by RBS, SSE, Stirling University and Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS. The charity is also preparing for its annual conference, which will be held at RBS Gogarburn in association with SSE. The focus will be on the role of education in sports participation and promoting active lifestyles. Details can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ education-the-key-to-participation-in-sport-tickets-24747407161
NETBALL Scotland’s Scottish Thistles are to face Northern Ireland in a two-match Test Series to inaugurate Edinburgh’s brand new Sports Performance Centre, Oriam. The home nation rivals will square up on August 14-15, in what has been branded the Celtic Clash. Netball Scotland CEO, Claire Nelson, said she is thrilled netball will be the first sport to showcase the new venue’s facilities. She said: “The partnership with Oriam and, moreover, the opportunity to host a netball test series as the centre’s first event, marks a significant milestone for the profile of our sport. Netball has enjoyed substantial growth in recent years, and being an integral partner in this spectacular new venue demonstrates that rise in prominence and popularity. “The clash also marks the first time that Netball Scotland has held an international match in the East in three decades, and we are looking forward to bringing our sport and athletes to Edinburgh.” The Scottish Thistles are currently ranked 10th in the world with Northern Ireland just two places behind. Thistles coach Gail Parata said: “Having a world-class performance centre like Oriam on our doorstep gives the athletes exposure to an environment that is completely dedicated to enhancing their performance and overall experience. I am sure the Celtic Clash will provide an excellent spectacle of netball.” Oriam, Scotland’s new Sports Performance Centre, offers world-class sporting facilities and services for the preparation and development of athletes, coaches and volunteers. Tickets go on sale soon priced £9 adults and £6 children. Register by email at membership@ netballscotland.com and put ‘Celtic Clash’ in the subject line.
LITTLE ‘HUMBLED’ TO LIFT AWARD SCOTLAND midfielder Kim Little says she is ‘humbled’ to have been voted the BBC player of the year. Kim, currently starring for Seattle Reign in the States, beat Gaelle Enganamouit (Rosengard), Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyonnais), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash) and Becky Sauerbrunn (Kansas City). The 25-year-old said “I’m very happy to win
this award. I’m extremely humbled to win. Women’s football is in a great place. Hopefully it will progress further.” The former Hibs and Arsenal player, from Aberdeen, has previously won awards in England, was the second top scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League. Scotland coach Anna Signeul said Little,
who has won 115 caps for Scotland, “has almost everything”. “She’s quick, her balance and movement on the pitch is fantastic. She has brilliant technique, There aren’t many things that she can’t do. She’s a role model. She’s perfect in everything she does on and off the pitch and I think it will take a long time before Scotland gets another player like this.”
News round INJURY BLOW FOR RENICKS
COMMONWEALTH Games judo champion Kimberley Renicks’s Olympic dreams are in tatters after injury forced her to undergo a shoulder operation. The 28-year-old was in tears when she found out she would miss Rio after suffering bone and cartilage damage. But she has vowed to battle on. She said: “I’m gutted. The Olympics is your dream. It’s not the end. I’ve still got a lot of fight in me. I sat down with my coaches and physio and they always say ‘it’s down to you’ but you’ve got your career to think about. “If my shoulder’s bad and I go into a tournament not at full strength and everyone is, then if I get injured more it could become a career-ending injury. You need to take a step back. I’m definitely staying on for the next two years. I’ll assess where I am after that and if I’m still up there winning medals and doing well in big events then I’ll go for another two years.”
High hopes for new Stirling marathon STIRLING has been handed a major new spring marathon next year – the first event to be staged in the newly-formed Great Run British Marathon Series. The event, backed by Scottish Athletics and Stirling Council, will take place on May 21, 2017. Starting west of the city at Blair Drummond Safari Park, the route will incorporate the breathtaking Stirlingshire countryside and historic landmarks including Doune Castle before finishing beneath the Stirling Castle ramparts. After an undulating first five miles, the remainder of the course will be fast and suitable for all abilities from elite runners to first-time joggers. Organisers, the Great Run Company – the market leaders in the staging of world-class, mass participation events in the UK – want the event to become the leading marathon in the country within three years. Stirling Council Leader Johanna Boyd said: “Stirling is the ideal setting for a marathon, with its iconic scenery, clean air and fantastic local running routes. We’re delighted to host the Stirling Scottish Marathon and look forward to giving a warm
welcome to runners and their supporters to our beautiful area. We hope that many people are inspired to enter the event. The route will be enjoyable and challenging for everyone from first-time marathon runners to seasoned athletes.” Great Run Company Chief Executive Mark Hollinshead said: “This is an opportunity to be part of something big. Participants will have the opportunity to run through history on this stunning course and the marathon will provide an opportunity to contribute to the overall quality of marathon running in Britain. “With a long tradition of marathon running, with legendary names like Allister Hutton, Liz McColgan and Jim Alder from the past, Scotland has again led the way in recent months and it’s only right that our 26 mile 385 yard journey starts right here in Stirling.” The location and route of the marathon will be used to reinforce the #ComeHomeToRun proposition to encourage ex-pats, and tourists throughout the UK, Europe and across the globe to come to Scotland. Entries are now open at www.greatrun.org
Matthew hits out at ban on women MUIRFIELD’S decision not to end its ban on women members has been criticised by Hall of Fame player and former Open Champion Catriona Matthew. She joined the outcry after the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers failed to secure the two-thirds majority to overturn the ban by 14 votes, despite backing from the majority of members. Following the vote, the R&A announced the Muirfield course will not be considered to stage the Open Championship again while the ban remains in place. Matthew said: “It sets a poor image. Obviously Muirfield are a small section of Scottish golf but with all the coverage this is getting all around the world it’s just not good for golf in Scotland. “In this day and age of 2016, it’s bad for equality and it’s a shame that we won’t be having The Open here now,” she told Sky Sports Sportswomen programme. A statement from Scottish Golf added: “We are disappointed with the decision from The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield. “We believe every golf club has a duty to be inclusive and to reflect modern society. “We take some encouragement from the clear majority in favour of women members and hope that those who voted for change continue to make the case for the modernisation of their club.” 7
Miley and Reid make a splash for Team GB
RACE Reid and Hannah Miley starred for Team GB with fantastic displays at the European Aquatics Championships in London. Reid became the first Scot to win an individual European Championships diving medal for Great Britain in 62 years taking 3m springboard bronze. Reid, who has just celebrated her 20th birthday, also won gold in the non-Olympic mixed synchronised 3m springboard final alongside Tom Daley. Meanwhile Miley claimed Britain’s first swimming medal of the championships, a 400m medley silver, after just losing out to three-time world champion, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú, Miley said: “I’m really delighted. I was worried my ego might get bashed around a bit, so it’s a big confidence boost to know that I’m the second best swimmer in Europe, even
EURO SUCCESS: Hannah Miley in action in the Women’s 400m medley and with her silver medal and Grace Reid in the 3M Springboard at the European Aquatics Championships Nigel French/Adam Davy/PA
when I’m not competition ready.” Miley, who won the British 400m individual medley title and has secured her Rio place, has already competed at both the Beijing and London Games. She added: “It’s always going to be a big race when you go up against Katinka. If you stick as close as possible you know you’re going to deliver a good time. It’s now important to focus on making sure my fastest comes in the summer.” Edinburgh University student Reid, who will underline her Rio claim at the British Championships, said: “I prefer to just zone out from the score, put my headphones on and just concentrate on the dives, focusing on each one individually. “I’ve been working non-stop for months behind the scenes. I’ve had great balance in my life and my diving’s really taken off in the past couple of weeks. I’ve got to maintain my form and keep training, I need to remain focused and take each step at a time.” 9
The big picture TEAM GB sponsors have revealed that Olympic and Paralympic medallists Jessica Ennis-Hill, Laura Trott, and Tom Daley played a key role in developing the kit designed by Stella McCartney for Rio 2016. The next generation lightweight kit combines what adidas describes as the latest in technical innovation with McCartney’s signature modern design aesthetic. The new look also features a new official British coat of arms. London 2012 Gold Medallist Ennis-Hill said: “I’ve
really enjoyed being a part of the creative process with Stella McCartney and adidas. It’s an amazing design and I think it will give British athletes a massive sense of pride and give us an edge in Rio.” Stella McCartney added: “The goal for Rio 2016 was to rewrite the rules of performance and design for athletes, allowing them to look and feel like champions on and off the field. The inspiration behind the design was this idea of contrasting British tradition with a modern attitude. The new Coat Of Arms, specially commissioned for this project, and traditional Union Flag hues sit alongside bold textures and modern silhouettes to create a strong identity.”
Gold rush Katherine Grainger on her battle to make Olympic history and her fairytale memories of London 2012
BOAT RACE: Katherine Grainger at Team GBâ€™s training camp. Picture: NICK POTTS/PA
HAT was your favourite moment of London 2012? Mo Farah’s triumph on the track? A sixth Gold for Chris Hoy? Danny Boyle’s mad opening ceremony? Perhaps. But for many of us it was watching Scot Katherine Grainger clinch an elusive Gold in the rowing. Nobody knows better than Katherine herself just how popular a victory it was because, in the hours, days, weeks, months, and now years, since she and partner Anna Watkins crossed the finishing line at Eton Dorney, people have told her so. Four years on, as she faces a new battle just to be selected for an astonishing fifth Olympics in Rio this summer, she recalls how Britons from all walks of life, shed their normal reticence to congratulate her: on train platforms, in queues at the bakers, and in every school she let delighted children wear her Gold medal in. As she returned to what would subsequently pass for normal life following her long-awaited triumph, she received cards, letters and visitors, all sharing their experience of her experience. A less level-headed person might have found it hard to keep their feet on the ground. But Katherine, who is currently training seven days a week as she faces a last-ditch fight to make the team, simply revelled in it, then got her books out to continue her studies. She also found time to write her autobiography Dreams Do Come True. With her Phd in Homicide Sentencing complete, having toured schools and businesses and worked as a pundit for the BBC, as well as becoming chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, she ended a two-year break from the sport by getting back to the day job in September 2014. She is already the only female athlete to win medals in four consecutive Olympics, and came back in a bid to set new records by targeting a Rio medal to add to her collection. Rowing is Team GB’s most successful Olympic sport, with Golds at every games since 1984, and the nation reacted in a similar way to her success four years ago as it did to Sir Steve Redgrave’s fifth successive Olyimpic gold in 2000. Now Grainger is desperate to emulate Redgrave by becoming a medallist at five consecutive games including three silvers, starting with Sydney in 2000, Athens and Beijing, the latter still the bitterest blow of her career. But, compared to previous campaigns, and despite that Gold last time out, she now faces one of her biggests tests: just to book a seat in a boat after selectors called time on an ill-fated fresh partnership in the double sculls just two months before the team flies out to Rio. It seemed as if the fairytale would continue when
Words: Derek Watson
If we can make the eight faster it’s a very exciting opportunity as they are top class already
Grainger’s Gold-winning partner Anna Watkins made a return last year, after quitting rowing to have children. But the reunion was short-lived and Watkins stepped down from the team again in February. Grainger resumed an attempt at forging a successful partnership with 28-year-old Victoria Thornley, a former model and equestrian rider who was a finalist in the Women’s Eight at London 2012. Having qualified their boat for the Olympics last year, with a sixth place at the World Championships last September, the pair missed out on a medal at the recent European Championships in Germany, coming fourth, one place worse than 2015’s bronze at the same event. In contrast, Lossiemouth’s Heather Stanning, and partner Helen Glover, who started the Gold rush back in 2012, and won back-to-back world titles in 2014 and 2015, triumphed again, successfully defending their European title. Grainger and Thornley’s disappointing result was followed by the bombshell news that selectors had ended the pair’s bid for glory in the doubles. Instead they face a last-minute contest to secure seats in the women’s eight: no mean feat considering the current crew claimed victory in the European Championships. Katherine said: “It has put my Olympic place in the balance. I’ve never been in this position before, not having a seat in a boat so close to an Olympics but I don’t want to walk away from it now. “The double has been very close to my heart so I’m very sad about the decision. Defending the title was a driving factor in me coming back, so personally and professionally it’s disappointing, but Vicky and I weren’t performing to the right level so we have to look at other options. “If we can help to make the eight faster, it’s a very exciting opportunity because they are a top class crew already. But it has been made clear to us that we will have to earn our places.” The team announcement for Rio is pencilled in for the beginning of June but there is a chance the full team may not be announced until later in the month, as the pair battle it out for a seat in the eight to guarantee a seat on the plane. Testing for the boat will begin when the team returns from a World Cup event in Lucerne at the end of May, leaving just a final warm-up event in Poznan from June 16-19. However, despite the shock news, the pair were boosted by Redgrave who backed them to book their places after realising their medal hopes were slim. He said: “I still expect both to be in Rio. Their training times have been good and they are among the top scullers in the women’s squad. I suspect the girls were keen to make a change. Neither of them would want to go to the Olympics unless they were a bolted-on medal hope. “There is no guarantee that Katherine and Vicky will make the eight quicker. But if they do, it would be crazy to take two boats - the eight and the double - that might finish outside the medals, when you could strengthen one of them by making a change.” Grainger has famously been in the reverse
situation, where almost total domination on the water was followed by bitter failure at the Olympics. So, with expectations lowered, it’s a safe bet that she will be training even harder at the Redgrave Pinsent rowing lake in Caverham, Berkshire. It is a quirk of the sport that even though the two-woman boat is qualified for Rio, those who will be sitting it are not. However, speaking before the demise of the partnership, Katherine conceded that it would be unthinkable that she will not be on the plane to Rio. She said: “As athletes you never make assumptions, you never treat it as a forgone conclusion. You never want to be complacent but it would still be a surprise not to be in that team announcement. “It was a very different partnership. Anna and I were together for three years leading up to London. We had this magical fairytale where we won everything we did and we got on very well. Leading up to a home Olympics was probably in some ways the biggest pressure I have ever experienced. But we managed to really enjoy it, soak it up, and realise it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a very successful crew, a very successful time for the country. We absolutely had a ball and then you get to win Olympic Gold on top of it. It was all slightly fairytale stuff.
GOLDEN MOMENT: Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins in 2012. Picture: STEPHEN POND/PA
“When I made the decision to come back and go again, I knew it would be a very different situation. Having had time out I had never had before and me trying to find my own feet and fight my way back into the team. There were a lot of new partnerships. I didn’t know what boat I would be in and who I would be with. “Initially when I came back last year it was all about me making sure I was back where I needed to be, sure that I was adding to the team and bringing my best standards which need to be at the top level.” Thornley, the fastest single sculler, came through the Sporting Giants project for women over 5ft 11in. At 6ft 4, she passed the qualification and the assessment which saw her introduced to rowing and eventually led to what the GB selectors had hoped would be a winning partnership. Grainger added: “It was a boat that Vicky hadn’t spend a lot of time in before and we hadn’t rowed together before. It’s almost like a new relationship; trying to get to know each other and your likes and dislikes, how you work under pressure and all different things. “We some had some real success last year and some frustrating moments. It wasn’t as much as we wanted it to be. The key thing was that we have qualified the boat for the Olympic Games. It’s very 15
different to four years ago when Anna and I were reigning World Champions and had been unbeaten for years and were rowing straight for the Olympics knowing exactly what the goal was.” What hasn’t changed is 40-year-old Grainger’s fierce competitive spirit and hunger for success. If she can turn things around, will going to Rio mean more than her Sydney debut? She said: “I’m a different person and a different athlete which, is terrifying. “The first time you get selected for the Olympic Games it’s surreal. You can’t believe it. You’re going to be part of this incredibly small team of people that get to go to an Olympic Games. You’re here with your role models. People you’ve watched on TV and people you’ve grown up admiring. They’re all Olympians and then you suddenly get to join that incredible group. “Going to Sydney, it was ‘pinch me now’ and all those ‘how did I get here’, ‘I can’t believe how lucky I am’ and all those kind of thoughts. “This time it would be in a way a sense of deeper pride at going to my fifth Olympics, four cycles on. I still count myself fortunate enough to be in this position and be part of that incredible Olympic dream again. “The most important thing to me is that I still have that excitement and I still feel it’s as special as it was the first time. That’s as it should be. If I ever felt that dulled in any way I would question if I was doing the right thing. “I love that being selected would be as exciting as the first time.” That first Olympics was not Katherine’s last, but despite three previous Olympic appearances, nothing prepared her for the sheer scale of being at the centre of the sporting universe at a home Olympics and the rowing equivalent of Beatlemania. Katherine said: “It sounds crazy now having lived through it but it genuinely took Anna and I by surprise. All athletes would say there is a lot of talk about being in the bubble. We knew a home Olympics was going to be so different in terms of attention and interest. We kind of knew the whole nation was watching “In the post office queue, everywhere I went, people seemed to know the date of my Olympic final before I knew it. “Then, as it got closer, we were in training camps abroad. We were in Germany for a while, then in Italy and then we came back to Britain. But we were sort of shut away from the hype as it grew. We saw the Olympic torch arriving and we picked up on bits of news, but we didn’t pick on the scale of the excitement building. “As an athlete you really hope it will all work. But it was only when it started and we experienced the crowds and an incredible level of support that I had never seen before you realised how good it was going to be. “But even then, it didn’t sink in until three or four days after we had won and both of us went into the Olympic Park together. We had about 200 metres to go and we were absolutely mobbed.
WAITING GAME: Victoria Thornley and Katherine Grainger training at the Team GB rowing team base Picture: PA
“We were slightly embarrassed and thought they had obviously got us wrong, or they didn’t know who we are or something because, as rowers, you’re not expecting recognition and you’re not used to that level of attention. “You suddenly have people coming up in tears and talking about their experience of watching the race. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was only as things unfolded about a week after the race that we began to come to terms with just how big that whole Olympics had been. The whole country had stopped to watch and take part and embrace it. It was really lovely that it felt like so many felt part of it, supporters and spectators. “I didn’t really realise that until after the Olymmpics were finished and I got back to normal life that wasn’t so normal any more. “It was wonderful. It was very special to be part
of something that was universally loved. No-one came up and said ‘that was awful’, ‘I hated what you did there’. Everyone was just thrilled. That went on for years but that whole Games experience was once in a lifetime. I loved it and embraced it. We did all the open top bus tours, trips to the palace, awards ceremonies, schools, it was constantly celebrated and people of all ages were clearly thrilled by it. You got these amazing letters from people, saying how much it had changed their lives. I got one from someone who had lost a parent and was really struggling with depression but found the Olympics had lifted them out of that. “We train for 80 per cent of the time in Caversham, in the middle of nowhere doing our thing and you’re not really aware of the rest of the world. “You’re doing something quite selfish for yourself,
It sounds terrible to say my worst moment was winning an Olympic silver medal
so it was nice to actually feel that it does have this incredible impact and influence and we’re all part of that. “I can’t overstate it enough. It really was quite a magical time. I remember getting on a train and was waiting and a woman came running up the platform and said ‘I just wanted to say well done, it was fantastic’. It’s usually a British thing that they will recognise you but don’t want to make a big deal. People do it quickly, very politely and just want to make that connection. “I’ve not had a level of fame that has impacted my life in a negative way. It’s just lovely and a reminder of a very special time.” Another reminder is, of course, her medal. She said: “I’m not at this stage where I sit on my own and take it out and have a look at it, though that might be in years to come. I take it out if someone has asked to see it or I go and visit someone, especially school age. They love holding and playing with the medal. It’s a reminder of just how special it is. Normally it’s not on show, it’s just tucked away. I know it’s there, I know what I’ve done to get it and I know what it has done for me but I don’t need to see it to remember all that. You always know you will have it but you don’t necessarily need to see it.” Now the hope is that more good times and another victory may be round the corner. But Katherine is no stranger to a cruel reversal of fortunes. Only those at the very pinnacle of their sport regard an Olympic medal as a failure. And the darkest moment she has endured was a second place in Beijing, a blow that nearly crushed her, that she now concedes was an essential part of her subsequent victory. She recalled: “My lowest point, and it sounds ridiculous, is Beijing when we won the silver medal. It sounds terrible to say the worst moment of my whole career was winning an Olympic medal. “I won my first silver medal in Syney in 2000 and, at that point it was the happiest day of my life. It was the most incredible thing to win. It was a really close photo finish and I thought it was a bronze, so I was over the moon. At that point in my career an Olympic medal was just everything. The colour was irrelevant. I think it was first for the women’s team in Olympic history, so it was the massive breakthrough we had been hoping for. “But eight years on ... blood, sweat and tears and devoting your life to this strange, monastic lifestyle of an athlete. I knew I was better than I had been but we still had the same result. We were triple world champions going into the Olympics so it felt like now or never: that this was the best chance we would get to win Olympic Gold. “We led for three quarters of that race. It just felt devastating because the expectations were so incredibly high. I felt a huge responsibility as the older, most experienced one in the boat. I just felt we should have delivered that result. The horrible thing is you know you failed, you feel that you’ve let everyone down. “We didn’t come back with what we should have. Of all my medals, it’s still in pristine condition. I 17
wasn’t ashamed of it … I just didn’t want to show it to people. My London medal is dented to bits now. “Now, I feel very differently about it. Quite possibly if I hadn’t have gone through that experience I wouldn’t have won Gold in London. It’s very much part of my experience and has made me a better athlete. “It was really valuable but a horrible lesson I would never wish on anyone. It’s your job but, in a way, it defines you as a person. I can now look at the medal with pride and a smile and not tears.” A desire not to let rowing define her was behind her next move: to walk away and find out if there were other things in life that she was missing out on and if they could deliver the same level of satisfaction. The former Edinburgh University law graduate, who also has an MPhil in Medical Law and Medical Ethics from Glasgow University, added: “For Anna and I, everything was planned, right up to the Olympic final and we knew 10 past 12 on the third of August 2012 was the moment of our destiny. “We genuinely did not talk or think about anything past the finishing line. When we crossed the line we were in uncharted territory. We didn’t really know how to deal with everything that came next. “The huge celebrations kept going but there was a massive comedown. It was exhaustion in a wonderful way. We went from a world that was very structured and you know what you’re eating and what time you’re going to bed and you enter a world that’s almost 24/7. We hardly slept. “I remember getting to Christmas and thinking I needed some structure back in my life. I just knew I couldn’t go straight back to rowing at that point. I wasn’t ready mentally or physically. I needed a break and to get some distance and decide what to do next. I realised that would take a while and that I would have at least a year off. “I decided to finish off my Phd because that had been going on for at least 10 years … I gave about three months to finish it off. That was really good for rebalancing. It gave me something to focus on and brought me down to sensible level. I got to end of that year and then felt I hadn’t had a break. I just hadn’t stopped. “I wanted to do other things, so did lot of BBC stuff including covering the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, which was fantastic, and whole range of different things. “I was open to one of them sparking my interest but then got to thinking. I don’t think I’m done with it. I might have achieved but it’s an environment I love and I still want to be in, so I made the decision to come back.” Cycling was the other massively successful
FINAL DESTINATION: The rowing lake at Rio 2016
TOP TIP: ROWING For Katherine Grainger, her route to Olympic glory began at Edinburgh University boathouse at Meggatland on the Union Canal in 1993. She went on to capain the university boat club before launching her successful career. She is the Honorary President of the Scottish Amateur Rowing Association and a member of Edinburgh’s St Andrew Boat Club. She said: “I just did for fun when I started. It’s a great university sport. It’s a very social sport and still is. You meet some great people along the way. I didn’t ever have plans to do this when I started, Definitely get out there and have a go and follow where it takes you because it can take you some amazing places. It’s about fun and pushing yourself.” www.scottish-rowing.org.uk www.britishrowing.org
winner at London 2012. But while it has been riven with the recent fallout from rows and accusations of sexism, rowing has suffered no similarly damaging scandals. The cycling upheaval comes after a BBC survey last year which claimed more than 40 per cent of elite sportswomen in Britain have experienced sexism but only seven per cent reported it. Almost half did not believe their governing body supported them and male colleagues equally. There is also ongoing criticism over the differences in prize money for male and female athletes in cycling, tennis and other sports. Happily, Katherine reports that rowing is a very different world. She said: “It’s not an issue in British rowing certainly. The good thing is that, the way it’s funded, the way it’s structured, we’re always treated equally. And, as far as sponsors are concerned, we really are one team. “Whichever part of the team is the most successful gets the most attention, understandably. When I first started Steve Redgrave was about to do his fifth Olympics, so the men’s got more attention but, at the last Olympics, the women won more, so the spotlight was on them. The attention swings but it’s not a sexism thing. We’re very, very equal.” For Grainger, having missed out on a recce mission to Rio during her sabbatical, the prospect of competing in the heart of the city in one of the most dramatic settings in the world is also spurring her on. She added: “While I was away the team did make a recce but I wasn’t part of it so I didn’t get to go. But we have a good idea what course will be like. “We’re very lucky. Usually, because you need huge areas to race on, you find yourself outside the city centre. In Rio the course couldn’t get more central. It’s right in the middle of the city, underneath Christ the Redeemer and it’s a stunning location. “So it would be very exciting being part of an Olympic team again in a city I’ve never been to. I’ve never been to South America. It’s always that balance: it’s exciting and different but you need to make it feel very normal and just perform at that level.” If that place in the eight is secured, once it’s over, Katherine, who lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, is looking forward to getting back to Scotland to catch up with her family. She added: “I’m patron of Scottish Rowing so I’m still in touch with what’s happening. Quite a few members have come down to join the GB team which is great. My mum and dad and family are still there and I get back as often as I can but at the moment that’s not very often. That’s something I’m looking forward to post-Games, spending some more time. It’s still very much home to me.”
GOLDEN MOMENT: Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins celebrate after winning the double sculls at London 2012 PA/Francisco Leong 19
My Sporting Life Netball Scotland legend Lesley MacDonald
‘Glasgow Games were pinnacle of my career’
LAYING for the Scottish Thistles at the spectacular Commonwealth Games was the pinnacle of my career and I announced my retirement afterwards. At that point it seemed like a good time to hang up the dress, however I was given the opportunity to come back and play last year at the World Cup and after that, that was definitely me calling time. I had a great career over 17 years with 132 caps for Scotland. I also had the opportunity to be the captain of the team over a number of years, so with all that together I couldn’t have asked for too much more. I have had the privilege of playing alongside some amazing players, had great role models that have guided me through my career, that have created memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. The biggest influence on my career has been my family, in particular my mum and dad, who have supported me and travelled the world to cheer on the team. Netball has given me so much and I have loved every minute of it. I will always be a Scottish Thistle through and through. I GOT STARTED when I was given an opportunity to play in an after-school club by a teacher at Capshard primary school in Kirkcaldy. That then developed and I found I really enjoyed playing and
DIFFERENT STYLE: Scotland netball coach Gail Parata
socialising with the people in a team environment. At Kirkcaldy High I went on to play for Dunfermline Ladies, my local club at the time and then progressed to Scotstoun Netball Club. NETBALL IS DEFINITELY ON the up, over the last couple of years in particular. The build-up to the Commonwealth Games and then the legacy, which was always the word that was bandied about. I have to admit our legacy has been brilliant. We’ve created a number of programmes including Bounce Back to Netball. It’s aimed at those who played before in a school environment and haven’t played for a number of years or at all and we’re asking them to come out and form recreational sessions, with a bit of a social aspect in that environment and promoting it as an activity for healthy well-being. The social environment and the chance to meet new people is perhaps the main reason people get involved in sport and Bounce Back certainly creates the environment for that to happen within those sessions. AS WELL AS WORKING as a Pathways Development Manager based at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, I’m currently the Under-21 lead coach and we are preparing for the Under-21 World Cup in Botswana in July next year. We have a fairly heavy
TOP TIP: NETBALL LESLEY MACDONALD: For anyone starting out now, the top thing for me is just be the best you can. Everyone is different but if you just put in as much as you want to put into it then you will be the best that you possibly can be. I knew I wanted to achieve national representation, so I put in what I needed to ensure that I got that. I am based in Glasgow working for Netball Scotland. But our squad set- up is across the country. We have athletes in the west, central and north. From an Under-21 perspective it is broader again, taking in the Borders, Perth and Dundee through to Orkney and Shetland. We try and cover as much ground as we can to provide as many opportunities as we can. www.netballscotland.com follow Lesley on Twitter: @lesleymac6
ON THE BALL: Scotland netball veteran Lesley MacDonald Picture: Nick Ponty
schedule from now to make sure the players are prepared appropriately for that age group but also to make sure we hit a lot of targets we want to meet. Because my career has been quite long I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of coaching as part of that. It’s been great in a club environment in Scotstoun but also within the Junior Pathways coming through. It has been a natural progression for me but I was given that chance and I want to give those opportunities back and make sure others have the same chances. THE GAMES WERE the highlight. There were six or seven thousand spectators in a sellout at the Hydro for the final, which is the largest attendance for a netball game in Scotland. Having people see our sport at its highest level has meant perception of our sport has completely changed since then. People come back into our sport because of that. If you are not among the top sports in the country unfortunately you always struggle for coverage. Yes we are building and growing and have so much more than we ever had before but you always want more. You always want more opportunities for promotion. GAIL PARATA HAS been in charge of the Scotland senior team for the last two and a half years.
The sellout final at the Hydro was the largest crowd for a game in Scotland
and has taken us through the Commonwealth Games and World Cup and will continue with the next cycle. We have a lot of development work to do but, hopefully, with our Under-21s competing in Botswana, those players will start to come through. Gail has made a tremendous contribution to our programme. She is from New Zealand, who are number two in the World. She has brought in a different style, a different culture and a different mentality. It has allowed us to grow as a squad and our play on court has improved. TO SUCCEED IN NETBALL, everyone brings something different. It’s never good to have the same player on the court. So it’s good if someone can bring a little bit of an edgy aspect to the game when someone has potentially that little bit more aggression than someone else. You need accurate passing and an accurate shot. There are so many different attributes that you can look for in different players depending where they are on the court. We’re very much about building the fundamentals with a young age group at the minute. When they come through the pathway we don’t always need to go back to focusing on the fundamentals and the basics. We want them to have that nailed by the time they come into the Under-17s, Under-21s and national team. 21
Q&A Name: Ann Lister Age: 68 From: Glasgow Occupation: Retired (Self-employed Book-keeper) Started running: 1997 joining the first beginners’ class of what was latterly known as The Glasgow Running Network at Tollcross Sports Centre. First big race: This has to be Shettleston Harriers Ladies 5k (April 1997). At this stage of my running 5K was a big race. This was followed by Brittanic Ladies 10k (May 1997) then Glasgow half marathon (September 1997) Point being that these were all completed within 9 months of starting running. Preferred distance: 10k to half marathon. Preferred training route: Anywhere off road with hills. Warm-up routine: Nothing special really. Start slowly and chat. Pre race meal: Hopefully this would be breakfast which would consist of porridge made with soya milk topped with drizzle of honey, 2 tsp of chia seeds, small banana and chopped kiwi eaten two and a half to three hours before race start. Post race routine: Get into dry warm clothes as I get really cold once I stop. Next plenty of water and a coffee as soon as possible. I do try and remember to do some basic stretching, paying particular attention to hamstrings. If I am going straight home from a race I will get something to eat, shower and lay down for an hour’s nap then I am good for the rest of the day. Favourite race: Moffat 15km Toughest challenge: Training for Lakeland Trails 36-mile ultra in 2015. The training was so tiring that I was either sleeping or resting. Just as well I had retired by then. The race itself was fine and the 10 who started all finished. Future challenges: Just really to keep running safely doing as many off-road races as I can. I have entered all the Lakeland Trail Series this year (did them in 2014) including a marathon and a few other that I have done in the past. Ideal race goody bag: Water, banana and Tunnock’s caramel wafer. Kit: Brooks Ghost 7 trainers for road, Salomon Trail shoes for off road. Sportjock Bras and I like wool based socks. Inov waterproof trousers, Montane waterproof jacket with hood and Salomon XA 20 backpack for trail and hill running. For me all these items
‘Tried it, loved it ... running keeps me fit and outdoors’ UPHILL BATTLE: Ann competes in the Lakeland Trail race in May 2016 and, right with Liz Sloan and Jill Irving at the Lairig Ghru race
are worth spending money on. Running tops from races and leggings, capri pants and shorts, usually purchased in sales so multi brands. If I require something in particular then I would purchase from my friend who owns Good 2 Run in Paisley.
Big issue: Since 31st March 2016 the Glasgow Running Network has ceased to exist as there is no funding available to basically keep active people active. Funding is apparently only available to get inactive people active.
Best advice given: Enjoy running, never let a niggle become an injury and smile.
The Glasgow Running Network developed Women in Sport when it was the Glasgow Women’s Jogging Network to help get women into running in a safe and confidence-building environment.
Sporting hero: Do not have anyone in particular but must say that people like marathon runner Ben Smith who not only set their own challenge but in doing that inspire other people, making every person who runs with him feel important. I have friends who are also inspirational coming through difficult times in their lives with the help of running and the support offered in all sorts of ways from their running friends.
That’s the way it was when I started running 19 years ago but it was going a few years prior to that. It was probably the most successful part of Women in Sport along with hillwalking and cycling. The hillwalking has also been axed. I am all for activities which take people out of doors in all weathers.
The reason the previous paragraph annoys me so much is that myself and other coaches were heavily involved in introducing women to running through beginners’ and other sessions. In the East End of Glasgow, we had no permanent coaches and did not always have the same coach through my beginners’ course. After I had completed my course I would be ‘back marker’ when the beginners started and it was suggested that I take training and get paid for what I was doing and I became a permanent fixture at Tollcross Sport Centre. I have been involved with sessions at Tollcross, Garrowhill and Gorbals Sport Centres and helping out at Scotstoun on Saturday mornings as required. Weekday distances of 4-6 miles, with Scotstoun’s being 6-10 miles.
As well as the normal sessions I have been involved with beginners’ couch to 5k safely in 10 weeks (1 session per week), couch to 10k in 12 weeks (2 sessions per week), 10k refreshers 5k to 10k in 10 weeks (1 session per week) 10k to half marathon (2 sessions per week) and I even helped out with marathon training one year. From the ashes of the Glasgow Running Network we now have the Glasgow Phoenix Runners who can be checked out on Facebook offering free running groups across the city. I am still running at Tollcross, Garrowhill, Gorbals and Scotstoun (when not training for a particular race). Maryhill has a beginners group as well which is doing really well. There have been enquiries for other beginners’ classes which I would be keen to
get involved with if day, time and venue suit. Reason for running: Why do I run? Well, it started because I was premenstrual, not able to keep weight stable, smoked 20-a-day and drank loads of coffee. Tried it, loved it, don’t smoke anymore, drink much less coffee, still have to watch my weight although it is easier and I have loads of lovely running friends. Running is keeping me fit outdoors, gives me confidence, challenges me and hopefully, as I am getting older, will help me stay strong and active and not be a burden to my family or society. Running also introduced me to yoga and I try to do two sessions a week and the odd workshop designed for runners which all adds to the healthy, strong lifestyle. 23
The lighter side of life
Welcome to our look at the funner side of life pounding the pavements. Here at Sportswoman Mag we believe running need not be the serious business many think it is. Whether you’re out with friends, or on a park run, it frequently has its lighter moments.
As many of you will know, the badlands of Lanarkshire and beyond bring their own special challenges. Elizabeth McLeod fired the starter’s gun with the following: “A recent run on a forest trail brought an unexpected, if slightly creepy, bonus in the humour stakes when we passed two teenagers who stepped aside as we went past but were then heard to mutter: ‘Aye, it’s always the runners that find the deid bodies!’”
Then there was the time when, with the finishing line of the Edinburgh marathon in sight, a spectator yelled: “Run faster – a lion’s after you!” She tells us: “After nervously looking back to find a man in lion costume, I picked up the pace anyway because no way was someone in fancy dress beating me.”
Taking the rap
Spectators aren’t always as helpful, the East End of Glasgow is always the real home of witty banter. Want proof? How about the morning she was feeling proud to be out with similarly-minded pals only to hear chorus of “Who let the dogs out … who, who, who,who,” from some local worthies.
It’s iso tonic …
But equally, some can be generous. Emerging from woodland trail from leafy Bothwell into less salubrious Blantyre early one Saturday morning the group was offered a can of lager by local breakfasting jakies. Very thoughtful of them. It was a warm day.
Sometimes there’s no outside help needed for things to go wrong. Another running fanatic, Gill Allan, no stranger to a 10k herself, recalls fondly the amusing (for her) evening when her husband decided to run home from Hampden after a Scotland game, as you do with half a dozen pints inside you. He was forced to stop and tie a shoelace before getting back into his stride. His surprise to find Hampden getting closer again was only matched by the embarassment of
STARTING POINT: The correct place to begin on the Glasgow 10k if you’re not part of the elite group of competitors. Picture: PA
knowing he had just run three miles in the wrong direction.
Uphill battle We’ve saved the best for last though. Clare, as we will call her (because that’s her name)
thought she was late for the start of the Glasgow 10k so she straddled the barrier and set off after the crowd. Halfway up the hill a hooter went off and she was engulfed by thousands of runners having started in the elite group by mistake. A mistake anyone could make, obviously. Funny stories you want to share? Drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rio here I come: Potter’s delight at sealing place
ETH Potter’s twitter feed, said it best: I’m off to the Olympic Games in Rio Baby! The Scots 10,000m runner claimed her place with a fantastic display in the British trial in London. Potter, was pipped by winner Jess Andrews, but finishing well inside the qualifying time of 32.15 on 32.05.4 in third, was enough to seal a seat as second-best Briton, edging out former European Champion Jo Pavey. With marathon trio Tsegai Twwelde and Callum and Derek Hawkins already picked, Potter became the fourth Scot to make the athletics team. Eilish McColgan could be the next distance runner to seal a slot with a good performance in the trials.
HAPPY DAZE: Beth’s Rio delight
Even after she had finished, Potter still needed confirmation that she had done enough. She said: “I am so excited. I just had to get the top two, having already run the standard, so that was the priority. I was nervous over those last couple of laps. I didn’t want to look behind me as I was just focusing on getting that second spot.” The London-based physics teacher, who moved south after the Commonwealth Games, led the race in the early stages. She added: “I felt good and was confident to hold that position at that stage. But Jess had a great run.” Scottish Athletics director of coaching Rodger Harkins said: “It is a fantastic achievement by Beth Potter to run inside the standard for the second time. We’re thrilled.” 25
ADVENTURE TRAIL: Lee Craigie, wearing FINDRA, takes to the hills Picture: CHRIS BLOTT
When winning is not the only thing Mountain biker Lee Craigie on inspiring women to seek their own adventures
O BE a champion mountain biker, compete at the Commonwealth Games and against other elite riders it’s all about the glory and a winner-takes-all attitude isn’t it? Not if you’re Lee Craigie. For the former British Champion, from Inverness, winning really isn’t the only thing. And, right now, it’s the furthest thing from her mind. Instead, it’s all about the journey, and who she can take with her and inspiring others to write their own adventure stories. The high of competing at the Glasgow Games soon after becoming British champion in 2013, was very quickly followed by a mental crash that brought her down quicker than the steepest sections at the Cathkin Braes course. But she has now embarked on perhaps her toughest challenge yet: launching an inspirational bid to get even more women enjoying life in the saddle and the great outdoors.
The newly-created Adventure Syndicate (www. theadventuresyndicate.com), which features a collective of extraordinary cyclists, marks the beginning of a new chapter and you get the feeling that the challenge in getting this off the ground is one of the biggest she has faced to date. Qualified psychotherapist Craigie, who runs a charity aimed at boosting mental health by getting wheels turning, as well as a community cafe and bike workshop in Inverness, is fanatical about the benefits of cycling. And she’s not alone. The Adventure Syndicate features record-breaking champion women riders with a thirst for adventure and exploration. The motto of Inspiring, Encouraging, Enabling throws down the challenge: “What are you capable of ”. And as far as Lee is concerned, the answer is: “A lot”. To get things rolling the challenge for the recent Adventure Syndicate launch was the non-stop team time trial of the North Coast 500. This gruelling route through Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire, takes in spectacular scenery and famous attractions. The seven-woman team, travelling at an average 14mph, completed 518 27
miles in under 36 hours despite 34,000 feet of climb and were joined by supporters along the way. The group included Lee, ex-cycle courier and adventurer Emily Chappell, British 24 Hour Mountain Bike Champion Rickie Cotter, Transcontinental veteran Gaby Leveridge, Commonwealth Games athlete Anne Ewing, Zara Mair and Jo Thom. After drumming support in person and on social media it was back to the Velocity Cafe and Bicyle Workshop for some energyrestoring cake. That was followed by another gruelling trip as Lee, on her hand-built Shand Bahookie bike, tackled the Highland Trail, a 560-mile long route, with 16,000 metres of climb thrown in. The route was inspired by the Tour Divide in North America, a 2745-mile race from Banff in Canada to Antelope Wells in New Mexico in the USA. The Highland distance might be shorter, but the principles are the same: complete it under your own steam and be completely self-supported. Lee, who will carry her own kit and sleep for just four hours a night, aims to complete it in under a week. Oh, and you might just get to carry your bike and cross rivers while you’re at it. Other syndicate members will then set off on their own adventures. Juliana Buhring will take part in the ultra-endurance Race Across America, the world’s longest time trial. Then Emily Chappell will ride from Flanders to Istanbul in the Transcontinental solo unsupported bike race, a minimum of 2500 miles. Closer to home, the Adventure Syndicate will also offer courses and lectures. Lee had considered the Tour Divide itself, but, instead, she is targeting 2017, as the challenges of starting the syndicate forced her to stay closer to home, where the Scots routes and the launch of the new venture provide enough thrills. She said: “The Tour Divide eats up so much emotional energy I don’t have for something like that at the moment. I’m not sure excited is the right word. Overwhelmed, but I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. “We want was many people as possible to get involved and to use the site to inspire people to set off on their own adventures. Everyone we have spoken to has been really positive about it. For the North Coast 500 and Highland Trail, just the daily grind makes it 10 times harder than the World Cup circuit.” Craigie came late to elite racing. With a degree in Outdoor Education, after working as a mountain guide in America and Australia, she later moved to Inverness and retrained as a Child and Adolescent Pyschotherapist. She also discovered she was hooked on mountain bike racing and progessed from Scottish champion to representing Team GB in World Cup events across the planet.
Until now it’s been all about me. Now it’s about giving back ... communicating something magic and life-changing
She said: “I didn’t race until I was really old, comparatively. I was 26 which is quite old to become an elite level competitor in anything. I had always ridden a bike so when I entered that first race I realised I was already quite good. “They say it takes 10 years to become world class in anything, so it took me until I was 36 before I was at the top of where I would have got to. That was just a conveyor belt of getting better. Entering a lot of races and training hard and progressively harder and sacrificing more and, before you know it, you’ve been selected for the British team and that becomes your life.” Her finest moment was clinching the British National championship on the Commonwealth Games course before going on to finish a respectable seventh at the Games themselves the following year. However, the decision to retire after Glasgow 2014, brought some black days and a determination to strike out in a different direction and channel her competitive spirit away from the personal satisfaction of winning. She said: “I would like to think I have left competition behind but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen for me. It’s just a driver that I have. But I’ve changed it. What used to be top end, elite level performance and World Cup circuits, with all the pressure and the stress that comes with that and the training commitment and the lifestyle commitment, I’m now much more in control. “I’m now in change of my own race calendar and go on big multi-day adventures, fully self-supported, race journeys, instead of that other slightly more exclusive, elitist, kind of thing. “My main driver behind all of that is to challenge what I think I’m capable of. I still want to keep challenging what I am capable of, but roll that out to people in general, but
specifically women and girls. I’m really keen to help them to help them challenge what they think they’re capable of too. And that’s not just about being a role model. That’s quite easy to say: ‘oh, we just need to get more female role models out there’. What we need to do is, Yes, be an inspirational, diverse, group of sporting performers. That’s really important. All shapes and sizes, sexualities and races, so you can appeal to the broad spectrum. We do need to have that inspirational presence. “But, the other bit is you need to actually be hands on in encouraging and enabling other women. And that’s what I want to do. “There is a group of us who have set up The Adventure Syndicate. We started off calling ourselves the Women’s adventure Cycling Syndicate. But we’ve dropped the Cycling, and we’ve dropped the Women, because it might be that we adventure on more than just bikes and it’s pretty obvious that we’re women and you wouldn’t call yourselves the Men’s Aventure Cycling Syndicate. “The idea is that we go out and do our own adventures. There is a bunch of different women all doing these things. We’re going to write about it, create articles and post them brand-free on line and go and deliver a series of talks and workshops to encourage other women into adventuring. “It’s a balance at the moment. Trying to get syndicate up and running and my training. “It’s not just about what I can go out and achieve personally. I’m bored with that now. I’ve had a pretty selfish, introspective cycling career. Until now it’s all been about me. Now it’s about giving back. I only want to do these things if I can communicate something to other people about them. And communicate the magic and life-changingness of something like that. I want other people to maybe not do what I do but catch a little bit of the seed of what I do and make it their own. It is just that. It’s about how life could be so much more than you think it can be if you just nudge the boundaries of it a little bit.” And she is conviced that women riders are ideally placed to get the best out of getting on a bike. Lee, who has teamed up with Alex Feechan, the like-minded cycling enthusiast and founder of sports fashion firm FINDRA, added: “In my experience, women are so much better suited to these really big mental challenges. Physiologically as well. But mentally, they just seem to have a resilience that women in general do. Obviously a lot of men do too, but in my experience women are more subtle about it and they shout about it less. “So tapping into that and saying ‘you’ve already got the strength for this, just get out there’ and don’t listen to the media and the bike industry. If you look at what they’re
READY FOR ACTION: Lee before the 2014 Commonwealth Games Jeff Holmes/PA
trying to present then, of course, you are always going to feel like you’re not good enough. You’re always going to feel that you’re not thin enough, or pretty enough, or sponsored enough to something like that and it’s all just a load of bollocks.” If she is evangelical about the benefits of mountain biking, it’s with good cause. The sport has given her her greatest highs, and a means of coping with the lows that followed. “Winning the British National Championship on the Commonwealth Games course has go to go down as, I suppose, my finest hour. It really did set me up for nothing but a fall. I felt as though I had put myself on this pedestal then and I really had to pull out all the stops for the Games. “It takes a lot of getting your head around. I’ve never been very good at being chased. I’ve always much preferred being the chaser. Suddenly I was at the top, everyone wanted a piece. It was just knackering. Really, really, tiring. “So, although it was the best day of my life. It also marked a bit of a downward turn. You don’t know that at the time. Then, you’re just on a high.”
At one stage, a disappointing performance saw her ride home alone from Andorra. She added: “It was my first race as British National Champion. I had a rubbish race and was thinking I don’t think I can handle the stress of this for a year. That was when I rode home. Just to get my mojo back.” The Games themselves and the Cathkin Braes excitement, turned out to be the start of a devastating downward spiral. Lee recalled: “In the same way, the Commonwealth Games, the atmosphere, was probably biggest high I’ve ever had. I was almost manic with it because it was just so exciting. My race on the day. The week that followed was incredible. You just had the keys to the city. The buzz about the place ... everyone was just so friendly and accommodating. You’re in your peak physical condition, you’re working towards this goal for 10 years and suddenly all the stress is gone. “At the time you think ‘wow, this is it’ but there’s always going to be the inevitable crash and the mental health difficulties that come with having been somewhere at the top, to that being over and then retiring from the sport. That’s not talked about enough.
“Suddenly the whole structure of your life is gone. What’s the point in getting out of bed in the morning when you’re not riding for four hours a day? “I was part of Scottish squad but living in Inverness and most of my riding was on my own but you still felt part of a bigger thing and had your eye on the ball. “Suddenly you were just swimming about with questions as big as ‘if I don’t do that, then who am I’. You have to redefine yourself. “There was three months of just utter depression. Not immediately, I had three months before that when I was thinking ‘when is this crash going to happen.’ I felt totally on top of the world. But the January after the Games finished I really started to go down.” However, her belief in redemptive power of two wheels comes from more than just personal experience. Her career in pyschotherapy and work with the mental health charity Cycletherapy she founded four years earlier, and later merged with the Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop, provided a solution. The social enterprise in Inverness run as a 29
community workshop is something she knows works. She added: “It runs a series of projects which uses bikes to get people feeling happier about themselves, whether they are socially excluded young people or women with poor mental health, it reaches out to lots of people. It’s great. It changes lives. “It’s not really about the cycling. It’s about the community and being involved with something and having something regular. That’s what dug me out of my pit was getting back on the bike. Give yourself that structure and just meet up with other people. “When you’ve experienced poor mental health it’s something you should never forget. You should keep it to the forefront of your mind because at some stage everyone you care about is probably going to be in that position to one degree or another and, if you understand it yourself, you can be open to it.” Now, the goal is clear, head for the great outdoors and take as many people with you as possible. Lee said: “I
GREAT OUTDOORS: One of the Adventure Syndicate founders, FINDRAbacked Lee Craigie. CHRIS BLOTT
would love to see more women competing. But my end point is to be involved in introducing this concept of aiming to do more than you think you are capable of, in whatever form that takes. I could use cycling or my adventure racing as an example, but if that means that a woman listens to what I am saying and goes out and pushes herself out there a little bit in relating to other people, or business, or doing something else that scares her, it’s all part of the same developmental struggle. “It’s about taking risks. And mountain biking teaches you a lot about taking risks. Both actually in the minute when you are deciding whether or not to do that jump and take that drop, but it’s about managing that risk and about what am I going to gain from that risk. “Generally we are quite risk-averse and I am quite keen to make people take a few more, especially women.” www.theadventuresyndicate.com www.leecraigie.com
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ON THE BALL: Volleyball veteran Lynne Beattie
Volleyball veteran Lynne Beattie targets a historic appearance at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Words: JUDE ROBERTS Main Picture: NICK PONTY
HIS summer, one of the most-glamorous highlights of the 2016 Olympic Games is certain to be the battle for Beach Volleyball glory on the world-famous sands of Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach. The bad news is Team GB didn’t qualify for the showpiece, but the recent announcement that the Commonwealth Games will include the sport for the first time is spurring on London 2012 volleyball skipper Lynne Beattie to represent Scotland on the equally sunkissed sand of Australia’s Gold Coast. If they make it in two years’ time, Lynne and playing partner Mel Coutts, will be rewarded with temperatures which will be a far cry from their training camp on Portobello Beach, Edinburgh. As followers of the sport, which is growing in popularity, will know, normal team kit consists of well, not much kit to speak of really. But in not so sunny Scotland, it’s a different story. When Lynne and Mel pitch up most mornings while the rest of us are safely tucked up in bed, fleeces are just a starting point to keep out the cold. Several pairs of socks on the cold sand also remove some of the glitz. However, Lynne is confident that the hardy Scots’ experiences, while they wait for the
country’s first indoor beach volleyball facility, will stand them in good stead. She said: “We do all our training at Portobello Beach and because myself and my beach partner are both full-time workers, we’ve been down at Portobello Beach at 6.30am most mornings through the winter. “We don’t have bikinis on. We’ve got about five million layers. but we know we have to train to compete with the rest of the teams in the world. “It takes a lot of mental toughness to come down and train in the cold and the wind but that’s the advantage we will have over other teams.” To add insult to injury, they have to set up their net and court every day too, though plans are afoot to raise funding for permanent courts and fixed nets. The 30-year-old added: “You’re competing against teams that have an indoor facility so they can train all year round, whenever they want but that’s just the challenge we’re up against. “It’s something the national governing body are looking to do, to get our own faciility to enable more particpation on the beach. It would be fantastic to have that and it would
You wouldn’t think twice about playing rugby or football outside in winter
allow us to do a lot more. “We have great support from the Portobello community and are making good progress. This will not only be great news from a performance point of view, but also for the community in general with everyone being able to access the sport all year round. “There’s a barrier there and people are thinking it’s Scottish weather, we don’t want to go out on the beach. But you wouldn’t think twice about playing football or rugby outside in the winter. “We’re trying to change the midset and culture of the people of Scotland just by our profile and getting out there on the beach at these times and showing people you can do that.” Lynne’s switch to the sand after 90 caps, came after she began her career with Scots club Su Ragazzi before going on to play professionally across Europe. Seeking a fresh challenge, she paired up with the experienced Mel Coutts, who has played for Scotland, captained England and is now coach of the Scottish women’s volleyball team. Lynne added: “Mel has been involved in with the indoor game for a while. She’s probably Scotland’s most experienced beach volleyball player so it’s great to play with her and learn the beach game because she is a fantastic player.” Scotland hosts the European Small Nations Beach Championships in June, which will allow them to benchmark their progress before the final qualifying procedure for Gold Coast 2018 is revealed in July. They are aiming 33
SWEET SUCCESS: At the Continental Cup
to go one better than in the CEV Continental Cup qualifying competition where their Rio dream was ended by two defeats in the penultimate qualifier in Thessaloniki, Greece. As the domestic season ended, their clubs shared the honours, with Mel winning the Scottish Cup with her team, City of Edinburgh VC and Lynne winning the league title with Su Ragazzi VC. “After a very closely contested season it was a fair result,” said Lynne. And back on the beach, it’s a case of far so good with victory in London in the Sideout Summer Series over British and foreign opposition. Lynne said: “Training has been going really well. We have been training hard in the gym and on the sand in preparation for the season ahead. “Our first International competition is on the 4th June so we have been getting in some practice in our first competition of the year. We won the tournament overall which was a great start to the season and are taking a lot of confidence from this and making great progress. “The next big thing is definitely finding out the details of the CWG 2018 qualification but until then we just have to get ourselves in the best shape possible; Physically, mentally, technically and tactically in order to put ourselves in the best position possible. “We have to play as many matches as we possibly can against high level teams in order to do this. “We feel really confident we can qualify. We don’t yet have any information on what the qualification process is, but we are currently ranked as the top European Commonwealth pairing ahead of England and Cyprus who could be our main contenders for that qualification spot. We aim to maintain this position and progress even further up the rankings.” Beattie is enjoying a new lease of life but says the move outdoors isn’t the biggest challenge. “You would think it is the surface but you go from six-a-side to two-a-side and the tactics change. You also have a court that’s only one metre smaller than an indoor court but you’ve only go two people to cover it, so it’s much more dynamic.
THUMBS UP: The Aussie beach volleyball hosts will be among the teams to beat in 2018
WINNERS: Mel Coutts and Lynne Beattie
“You get more tactical shots as opposed to power, but the game is slightly changing now because you’re getting bigger players now playing beach so the power aspect is now still there. “I just like the tactical element and the mental toughness we have to have. There’s only two of you out there. If one person is having a shocker then you really have to get yourself together because otherwise you won’t perform. “We’ve had the opportunity in the last year or so to compete in a Road to Rio Continental Cup competition and got to the fourth round. “We’ve had a good start and we think that with a bit more training and hard work we can get to the Gold Coast.” As well as the hours of gruelling training, and still playing indoors at club level, Lynne also holds down a full time job – with Volleyball Scotland. You would be right in thinking that her love of the sport goes far beyond obsession. A long commute from Glasgow has ended with a move to Edinburgh, bringing her closer to Portobello and Scottish Volleyball HQ at
WARM-UP: Not so sunny Portobello
The Pleasance but that just gives her more time for training and coaching in a daily routine where she eats, sleeps and breathes volleyball. The pharmacy graduate, who also has a Master of Science in Strength and Conditioning, said: “It’s nice to work for the sport you love and give something back. “From a national team player point of view I’m in a full-time job but I’m also also training almost full time – four hours a day on top of work. “It’s a fantastic sport. It’s a sport you can play indoors or outdoors. In the garden, on the beach, or at the pool on holiday. But, for me, it’s the team aspect that I love and it’s probably that aspect of it that is keeping me hanging on in there in terms of supporting other younger players. “The beach has given me a new challenge in terms of learning. It’s quite refreshing to be learning a new role and the fact that we’ve got that carrot of the Commonwealth Games to aim for is just driving me on.” If the Scots do make it to Australia, it will make up for the disappointment of not being
ON A HIGH: Australians celebrate beach volleyball’s inclusion in Gold Coast 2018
MAKING A POINT: Lynne Beattie
Having the 2018 Commonwealth Games to aim for is just driving me on
involved in Rio and, having tasted the rare atmosphere of the Olympics and seen firsthand the feel-good factor of the Glasgow games, Lynne is hungry for more. She said: “Everything I did prior to London was really aiming for that Olympic dream. I’ve always wanted to aspire to that. The team of girls we had, we trained full time in Sheffield and it wasn’t a certainty we were going to get that spot there. So make it there and to win a game when we got there was brilliant. We were making history for the sport. “It was the absolute pinnacle of my career and 15,000 screaming fans at Earl’s Court shouting for your home country was something I’ll never forget. As captain of the team
ON THE UP: Mel Coutts in action
as well, it was nice to have that honour at a home Olympics.” As well as her distinguished international career, Lynne has played professionally in Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, capturing an English league title with Team Northumbria along the way. Australia would add thousands more miles to a career that has taken her all over the world, a far cry from her first steps on court. She recalled: “In my first year at secondary, at Mearns Castle High School, there was a summer camp for new first years. At the time, I played lots of different sports but, as soon as I played volleyball I was absolutely hooked. “I just went on from there from school, to club level, from club to national level and then to the Great Britain squad. “In my position as an outside hitter, I’m involved in everything but predominantly a points scorer. If I’m successful. I take all the glory and score the big points. I’m a net player, who jumps high and tries to score lots of points.” Lynne paid tribute to two former coaches who helped along the way and underlined her
determination to pass on the same experience to a new generation. She added: “Scotland internationalist Sandra Grubb pushed me at an early stage in club volleyball. She identified the potential that I had and really pushed me to explore different opportunities. She was a phenomenal player herself and good leader and certainly taught me a lot. “My other biggest influence would be Audrey Cooper, the Great Britain indoor coach, who took us to London 2012. Her drive and passion for the sport is unbelievable. She definitely had a massive influence and gave me a lot of opportunities to grow my own game.” In her new role as Regional Development Officer East Lynne is confident, that, even without the boost Gold Coast qualification would bring to Scottish beach volleyball, the sport has a bright future. “It’s grown a lot from an indoor and a beach volleyball perspective. There are lots more opportunities for junior players. I think that’s what gets kids involved is the competitive opportunities. “There’s huge competition in the UK School Games, which volleyball is a massive part of, and within the governing body they are running a lot of opportunities for training and competition. “Participation-wise, there are so many more people playing and our national teams are starting to perform on a world level as well. “Lot of schools playing and we’re starting to target primary schools so that when they get to high school they’ve already played and they know the sport, whereas, before it was predominently a secondary school sport. “We’ll provide opportunities all the way through and even now we’ve got a Masters tour where we are trying to get people who were involved in the sport back into it with roles as coaches and volunteers. “It’s massively growing. There is stlll a long way to go but we are working on it.”
TOP TIP: VOLLEYBALL LYNNE BEATTIE: Just try it. Don’t be scared. If your school doesn’t play it then get in touch with Scottish Volleyball. We have a website and social media. We can direct you. If you get stuck in there could be the chance to represent your country and opportunities to travel and play volleyball. www.scottishvolleyball.org Lynne and Mel are currently funding their Games qualifying bid themselves but are on the lookout for sponsorship partners. If you can help, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.goingforgoldcoast2018.jimdo.com 35
MANAGER History-making football boss Shelley Kerr on why being judged on results is all that matters to her
Words: MOIRA GORDON
ERTAIN words punctuate a conversation with Shelley Kerr. Ambition is a popular one but so too is opportunity. In life, the first has earned her the second. The first woman to be given the opportunity to manage a senior men’s team in Britain, she has made the most of that and she would be thrilled to see the ambition which took her this far in the game, be mirrored and rewarded in other women. But she is a manager who hates to be defined by gender or stereotypes. Label her as driven, throw in enthusiastic, amiable, down to earth, hard-working, knowledgeable, respected, analytical, fastidious, improving; any of those descriptions would be just as accurate but more informative. Just don’t stop at female. Not if you want to avoid a sigh and a withering look. “I see myself as a manager, who happens to be female. I don’t see the need to say I’m a female football manager. No guy is described as a male football manager, is he? Managers have a tough enough job and we know we are judged on performances and, mainly, results, I don’t think I need to be judged according to my sex as well.” The explanation is delivered purposefully and with sound reasoning but there is no chippiness. Two years ago, when she was appointed manager of Lowland League team Stirling University she acknowledged that she had an extra burden to bear. Just weeks earlier there had been a stink kicked up in France, where Helena Costa, the first female to get
I don’t see the need to say I’m a female manager. No guy is described as a male football manager ...
the chance to coach in the men’s professional ranks, had quit as manager of Clermont Foot 63 after just 49 days. She cited the old ogres tokenism and sexism as the reasons, claiming they had undermined her ability to do the job. Some argued that she had simply not been up to the task. With that, the spotlight had shifted to Scotland and onto Kerr. “I knew there would be some people out there waiting for me to fail and I knew that if that happened then it would maybe affect any woman coming after me,” she says. “So there was so extra pressure but I have always said that, as a manager, a player, a person, the real pressure to be the best I can be does not come from employers or outsiders, it comes from me. Even as a player, I always saw myself as a role model and tried to do the right things. You don’t always get it right but I try, and if other females look at my situation and think they want to do the same, then great.” She was dressed in her Stirling University tracksuit that first day, the only nod to established examples of femininity were the bright pink laces in her trainers. It was her little joke and a sign of the humour that is almost necessary to survive in any football dressing room, as a player or a coach. Now, two seasons on, history was made in Hong Kong a few weeks ago when Chan Yuen Ting, became the first female to guide a men’s professional football team to the nation’s top flight championship. It raises a satisfied smile from Kerr, who has not done too badly herself. Having guided Stirling to a sixth place finish in a highly-competitive league in her first campaign, she has followed that up with a creditable third place ending to this term. Both seasons her team finished runners-up in the British Universities league. Sitting in the cafe at Stirling University, where Kerr is combining her coaching role with expanding her knowledge and her employment credentials by
studying for a Sports Management degree, the woman who laughs as she divulges that she has been described as not just a mature student but a very mature student by her daughter Christie, is revelling in the dual challenge. Academically the former Scotland international has been collecting merits and passes the way she collected caps – with great assurance. The results and the drive vindicate the university’s decision to appoint her ahead of 14 quality male candidates who all applied for the job. To her, accepting the position at Stirling wasn’t a conscious feminist statement, it was simply an opportunity that was too good for an ambitious football manager to turn down. “I have always wanted to challenge myself and I work hard and I do have a lot of ambition.” That is reflected in a curriculum vitae that is bursting with achievements, an ever-growing skillset and a positivity that is key to man-management. By the time the management vacancy arose she had already signed up for her degree course. It was the perfect fit. She has been learning and educating in equal measure ever since. “The very first week I was in here, the late Pete Bilsborough [Head of Sports Development at the university] said there was no pressure. He said: ‘we are here to develop people, that is what university is all about’ and that sentence has stuck with me. I like that.” In truth, while developing other people, she had developed as well; as a manager and a person, learning how to man-manage youngsters who are away from home for the first time and underpressure players who have end of year exams or dissertations to juggle with the almost daily training sessions and twice a week match commitments. “Me studying at the same time has given me the opportunity to experience what the players are going through because there are certain windows throughout the academic year when there is real, real pressure and I guess that when I initially came in I thought it was more difficult for the electricians and the bricklayers and joiners to have done a day of physical work and then come to play but now I realise that the pressure is completely different and there is a massive mental pressure. It means I have adapted and maybe been a bit more flexible than I might have been.” If she cuts her players some slack at times, she does not afford herself the same courtesy. It’s not in her DNA. Even when studying for her pro licence, alongside guys who have played at the highest levels and managed in the Premiership and down south, she shakes her head, laughing, almost blushing at how much of a perfectionist she was. She tells the story of refusing to hand in training plans that ‘would do’. “Instead, I would say ‘c’mon guys, we can do better than this’. I would see them groan because they wanted to head down to the bar but eventually we would put our heads together and come up with something we were proud of. It’s just the way I am.” Born in Broxburn in 1969, Kerr grew up in West
I think I was always more passionate and determined about football than my brothers
Lothian, the youngest of four children. Like most people, she was introduced to the sport in the back garden, thanks to her brothers, Kevin and Colin, and her dad Jimmy. As she talks of those days, two things become evident. The first is her love for her family, which also includes mum Christine and sister Pamela, as well as daughter Christie, who has followed in her footsteps, and all the nieces and nephews, two of whom are on Dunfermline’s books and share the burden of delivering results each weekend. The second is her lifelong obsession with the sport. Having graduated to playing in the streets, Kerr’s passion for the game ignited in a way it never quite did for her brothers. “I think I was always more passionate, more determined than they were.” The only girl in her primary school team she used to test the patience of her mum, coming home with with ripped tights and mud-splattered clothes as evidence of another play-time absorbed in the game. “But my parents were always supportive. They still are. My mum
WINNERS: Shelley and Steph Houghton lift the FA Cup with Arsenal in 2013
always wants the team to do well and she has supported me in so many ways over the years that have allowed me to follow my dreams, and my dad is usually the person I call on the way home from games. He is great because he is always the same and is always honest!” She laughs, with raised eyebrows, recalling some of the brusque truths that could have felled her over the years but have instead inspired her. Her dad, it seems, does not believe in platitudes or sugar-coating assessments. “It’s great, though, because I get to talk it all out with him by the time I am home. It means I don’t get carried away with wins and, if we lose, which thankfully we don’t do too often, after chatting with him, I know things can only get better!” As she plays through the reel of sepia tinted memories of the old days, she remembers faithfully taking public transport into Edinburgh to train with Edinburgh Dynamo, even though she was initially younger than most of the squad and not a first team pick. That helped her toughen up quickly, and imbued her with the tenacity that
eventually helped her earn her 59 caps for her country, making her debut in 1989 and wrapping things up almost 20 years later, in the 2008 Euro play-off, against Russia. A proud, patriotic, tough-tackling, ball-winning, old style centre back, who could read the game, there was no faffing. Life, though, has a habit of taking over and in those days, back when there were plenty of frustrations in the game but no money, precious few opportunities and a varying degree of commitment from players, clubs and governing bodies, she made the choice to step away. She worked as a section manager at Mitsubishi and she also became a mother during that hiatus. Football was never going to relinquish its grip but back then the landscape for women in football was pretty barren and a world away from the platform afforded the likes of Arsenal Ladies, who she managed prior to taking the step into the men’s game. Comparatively, opportunities abound these days; the game is growing, the number of female
Born: October 15, 1969 Mum: Christine Dad: Jimmy Place of birth: Broxburn Youngest of four children. Siblings, Kevin, Pamela & Colin Attended: Parkhead Primary School, West Calder & West Calder High School 1982: Signed for Edinburgh Dynamo 1989: Gained first coaching badge 1989: Made her Scotland debut, in a 3-0 defeat to England 1996: Gave birth to daughter Christie 2000: Signed for Hearts 2001: Signed for Giulianos 2002: Signed for Kilmarnock Ladies (player/coach) 2002: Made her first UEFA Women’s Cup appearance 2005: Signed for Doncaster Rovers Belles 2007: Signed for Hibernian Ladies (player/coach) 2008: Signed for Spartans (player/manager) 2008: Earned her 59th and final cap, in a Euros play-off against Russia, losing the tie on away goals 2009: Appointed SFA Technical and Development Programme Manager for Girls and Women’s Football, including being women’s U–19 national coach 2013: Earned her UEFA Pro Licence and a month later is appointed manager of Arsenal Ladies 2014: Made history as the first female manager of a men’s SPFL side when she was appointed manager of Lowland League side Stirling University. www.shelleykerr.co.uk follow Shelley on Twitter: @Kerr5Shelley 39
players and clubs, the level of sponsorship and media coverage, and attendances have all erupted and, now, ambition and opportunity can garner those with talent and industry a professional career, as a player or in so many other areas of the game. That all comes from greater credibility and depleting levels of ignorance. As someone who likes to add strings to her bow, refusing to settle and stagnate, she took her first coaching badges the year she made her international debut and has moved from player/coach to development coach, to player/manager, all within the women’s game, to coach and then manager within men’s football. An inquiring mind, she understands the many facets of the game, as well as the business management and human resource side. But where all that will lead to, she doesn’t know. The dream two years ago, was to ultimately climb the managerial ladder, now she is not so sure. “Is it realistic that I could manage a club in even the Championship in Scotland? I don’t know,” she says. “I think that in terms of appointing a female at a big club, that day is still a long, long way away, if I’m being honest.” So, she has been trying to decide what will feed her ambition. “I am very open minded and I look at things like operations managers, who deal with agents, players, supporters and a role like that might be attractive and then there are academies, so there are a lot of attractive roles but, having said that, there is a huge, huge attraction to managing and getting that matchday buzz. Nothing ever compares to it.” And there is still the lure of trying to capitalise on the
HOT SEAT: Shelley prepares for big games during her time in charge of Arsenal. PA
pyramid system and take Stirling University into the professional leagues. The system is still in it’s infancy, the opportunity for Lowland and Highland League teams to elevate themselves to the SPFL League Two has coincided with Kerr’s tenure at Stirling and she is a massive proponent. “I like the fact that clubs at this level can send a message out to everyone that the league is strong and we have teams here who have the infrastructure in place and have the ability to compete. For me, it is about ambition and what you see with the pyramid system is Lowland League and Highland League teams investing because they are ambitious. “A lot of clubs in League Two have a long history but Scottish football can’t afford to live in the past. It has to be about the future. What you see since the pyramid system was introduced is clubs moving forward with plans. You only need to look at Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle to see how successful clubs coming from non-league can be.” So there is no rush for Kerr to find a fresh challenge, there are opportunities and ambitions where she is. And she is loving it. “This environment has been a breath of fresh air. I have worked at a national body and at a professional club and this environment is great for developing people but I am also very ambitious. Every job has a lifespan but I am still very passionate about the role I have here and I want to drive the programme forward.” People on the outside will be watching but, as always, the pressure to do that will come from within. Moira Gordon is a sportswriter with The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday
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Sportswoman Magazine www.sportswomanmag.co.uk 41
Fitness and nutrition Hit top gear in every sport with Charline Joiner
T WOULD be fair to say the majority of us women want that banging body ready for summer. On those less cold summer days we wear less clothes and the lumps and bumps are more noticeable, so we hear a lot of typical phrases like “I’ll start the diet tomorrow’’, “I need to get back in the gym”, “I feel so fat” and “I need to stop eating rubbish”. I know it’s hard. I’m a female endurance cyclist with the body of a sprinter and sweet tooth that means a lot of effort not to feed it, otherwise I will find it even harder than I already do to get up those hills in races. It’s not that I don’t eat cakes, chocolate or carbs because I do. I just eat them a lot less than I would like to. The big question is how to achieve this. Everyone is different but here is how I make the right decisions and train my willpower. Going on the “no eating rubbish” venture alone is tough, though definitely doable. However, I have found that having a buddy that wants the same things makes taking on the challenge with support a lot easier. For the two months before Christmas last year my friend and I agreed not to eat or drink chocolate, sweets, crisps, cakes, fast food, greasy food, fizzy juice, alcohol or pretty much anything that was bad for you. We agreed to each take it in turns each week to look up a healthy cake or dessert and main meal we could make to satisfy our cravings. The first week is always a battle. Your mind knows it’s not supposed to have the sugar so naturally it wants it and the body craves it. It’s like an addiction that comes with some withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness and low tolerance. Don’t worry, as this quickly subsides leaving you with less cravings every
O T S P I T PRO R U O Y T S BOO T U O K R O W
The first week is always a battle. The mind knows it is not supposed to have the sugar, so it craves it ...
day and more willpower. After all, it is the willpower that we are training in this process, and with every day that you move forward with your challenge you become stronger in this area. After two months of being good, my friend and I had a big day planned at a nice Italian restaurant with lots of pasta, bread and, of course, the dessert. We were both unsure if we should actually have one. All that hard work only for it to be undone now. All those missed desserts and saying No to the bad stuff only to now surrender. But, after a bit of thought (only a bit, though), we decided to have our cake and eat what we wanted over Christmas and start another challenge again from January 2, to be followed by another cheat day together. There are bad choices all around us and it’s hard to say no to them all, all of the time. However, setting a few challenges for yourself with friends and family can make refusing the bad choices a lot easier. It’s not just keeping away from the cake that can help. Here are my top 10 tips to get the most out of your training: PLAN YOUR WEEK & HIGHLIGHT THE KEY TIMES YOU CAN EXERCISE
Write it down Sunday night and stick it on your fridge or noticeboard so you can see it every day. It’s amazing how much more motivated you will be after setting yourself a plan.
CHOOSE A SET OF EXERCISES THAT YOU ENJOY DOING
It is important to realise that exercise pushes your body so it’s always easier to get the most out of it when you really enjoy what you are doing.
BE SURE TO SET YOURSELF SOME REALISTIC GOALS
Always set goals that you can see yourself achieving and once you reach this goal you can make new ones. This is how you improve and get closer to your desired outcome.
MAKE REST AND RECOVERY A VITAL PART OF YOUR ROUTINE
The most important factor about exercise is most definitely the rest and recovery. There must be sufficient rest from exercises to allow the muscles to recover, grow and become stronger. Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down? Factor in a rest day every week to relax and recover.
CONCENTRATE ON FUELLING AND HYDRATION PRE & POST WORKOUT
When exercising it is important to eat most of your carbohydrates around training. Well balanced meals will have a good source of carbohydrates, vegetables and protein. Start your day by downing a pint ... of water and drink three litres of water daily. This can also help the dreaded dark circles under the eyes and purify the skin. Also note: there is no point in training every day and going home to eat sausage rolls, crisps and chocolate. This won’t get you the results you are after or help your body recovery.
REMEMBER STRETCHING AND YOGA ARE KEY TO RESETTING THE BODY
Working and exercising may be two strenuous aspects of life, building up stress and tension, therefore stretching, yoga or sports breathing definitely helps the body relax and reset itself. I stretch every day and do sports breathing most nights before I fall
Fitness Q&A CHARLINE JOINER won silver at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and now rides for Team Ford EcoBoost. The qualified fitness instructor will have more pro tips on getting the best from your workouts in the next edition of Sportswoman. If you have any fitness questions you would like answered please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Charline on Twitter: @ChaJoiner and @DynamiqueF
asleep, I have a very active mind at night. This helps me switch off and turns the body into recovery mode.
REMEMBER THAT THE CORE IS THE KEY TO EVERY SPORT
Adding a simple effective core session 2-3 times into your week can make the world of a difference to any sport or exercise you do. When your core is strong it is the perfect platform for you to expand your skills in every exercise and not to mention, gives you a flat stomach.
MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A REGULAR TRAINING DIARY
It’s a brilliant idea to keep a training diary as it shows what exercise you do every week and will show improvements to help fuel motivation.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT AND CORRECT CLOTHING
A good pair of trainers is number one. When exercising it is important your feet are stable. Also, for sports like cycling, padded shorts make the world of difference as well as having a bike that fits you properly. I always have more layers on in the gym, out running, or on the bike. You can always take them off. It’s better to be too warm than too cold!
FIND A TRAINING PARTNER TO HELP MOTIVATE YOU
Having a pal to train with is always a good idea. If you set up a running date or gym session you will be more likely to commit to it if you have someone to meet you. Exercising can be more fun with more people, having that extra bit of motivation can go a long way. Entering events with groups is a great way to get fit and have fun in the process training for it. 43
DESIGN for life
O something you enjoy, they say, and you’ll never work a day in your life. But ask fashion designer and mountain bike lover Alex Feechan and she will probably agree that it’s great to follow your passions but, like anything, if you want to succeed, hard work is still necessary. And, even though she is having fun turning her own designs into high end mountain bike clothing, she admits there are days when doing it all by yourself just makes your head spin. Having launched award-winning women’s mountain-bike clothing brand FINDRA in 2014 she is targeting expansion, having secured a deal with online giant Wiggle. But, for Alex, who started her business after taking up mountain biking and realising she wanted more from the clothing available, the firm’s values, including empowering women cyclists and encouraging participation, are just as important as sales. She is now working with mountain bike champion Lee Craigie, who is also featured in this edition of Sportswoman. Alex said: “Lee has just started as our brand ambassador this season. She loves the product and the brand ethos and values and she is really keen to support the message that we’re putting out there as it resonates with what she is doing wth the Adventure Syndicate and what she believes as a female bike rider. “The fact that Findra is about women getting out there an enjoying what they do and making sure they feel good about that and that they get as much as they can out of it. It’s not about being the fastest or most technical rider, it’s about the benefits of getting out there with friends and making that effort to go and enjoy.” Alex is satisfied FINDRA is also on the right track but admits, sometimes it can be a headache. She added: “The business is going well. We’re just growing the online sales and developing the relationship with Wiggle, which is good. We’re
NEW LOOK: Designer Alex Feechan started her own clothing brand
looking for some other potential bricks and mortar wholesalers, so we can have some product where people can go and touch it, feel it and see it. We’re looking at various options. “This year is about getting great brand awareness and looking at how we can increase sales. “Being approached by Wiggle in that first year was fantastic. That relationship has moved forward. They are very commmited to supporting the brand and seeing sales grow and we get a great insight to the marketplace through them. We now know which products are best-sellers. and how we can build the collection from that point.” The forty-four year-old found that the world of e-commerce and taking on a number of roles have been her biggest challenges and describes it as a “massive learning curve”. She said: “I love the business side but it’s hard. I played one part in a big company before, now I’m the whole company. having so much to think about. The amount of stuff I have learned in the last two or three years has been unbelievable. It’s really hard sometimes because you are completely out of your comfort zone. You’re not doing what you’re trained or qualified to do. “A really clear example of that was when I went to meet Wiggle in March this year. It was a long meeting and I came out with a real headache. It was hard but I suddenly realised that they had five people and each department had their own person and I had to take one hat off and put another one on. That’s why I came out absolutely exhausted.” Alex, who studied at the Scottish College of Textiles and Heriot-Watt University before gaining a Masters from the Royal College of Art in London, travelled all over the world in her 20-year career in the fashion and textiles industry, working on high-end, luxury brands. So, when she started mountainbiking, she was disappointed in what was available to wear. She said: “ Findra happened when I was going out every weekend with group of friends and loved it and got really hooked on it. I went to buy some clothing but didn’t like what I saw. It looked like it
FINDRA founder Alex Feechan
Findra is all about women just getting out there and enjoying what they do
was an afterthought to the men’s range. The phrase ‘shrink it and pink it’ came to mind. Just putting a pink flower or a go-faster stripe onto a man’s product. I just found it quite patronising. There was just a real lack of choice and there was no way there had been any insight from a female perspective. “The cut looked really bad. Everyone looked the same and it was really boring. When I spoke to my friends everyone felt that they didn’t particularly like what they had but there was no option. At that point I thought there was an opportunity.” From there things snowballed and, after launching her own range, her biggest problem was keeping up with demand. “As a designer I would like more product options in the collection but know I need to take my time, and not spread myself too thinly and have this core collection built up.” Her range, she believes, is also perfect for the four seasons in one day weather Scots riders have to cope with. “You start off with all these layers on, then as you get warm you need to take layers off and transfer them to your backpack. Everyone was pretty bulky and wearing inappropriate layers. “We thought it would be great to create a layering system which is really lightweight and can layer up and down with fabrics which are lightweight. The raw material was merino and that has excellent performance-enancing properties – it cools you down and keeps you warm. Products are made in one piece so there’s no seams which makes it absolutely perfect for sportswear.” Now based in Innerleithen in the Borders, Alex returned to her native Lanarkshire and taught at Glasgow Caledonian University and Coatbridge College before returning to her industry roots. Now, she is determined to see just how far FINDRA can go. “I finished up my full-time job a year ago. Quite often, when I’m having a bad day, I think ‘OK, don’t do it’. Then I think there’s no way I’m walking away from this. This is what I want. I’m absolutely determined to carry on. I love what I do. I love the challenge of it and it’s great to see it going in the right direction.” 45
My favourite walk
Mystical, fun and so dear to my heart
Words: MYRID RAMSAY
HE Buachaille. Challenging, mystical, fun, scree, tragedy, friends, injury, mist, Freddo Frog. And of course obligatory bad weather and clear-day heart-swelling vistas. The words and emotions that well up when I conjure memories of this most imposing and beautiful of Scotland's mountains. And conjure this image and the accompanying feeling of freedom and lightness I feel atop it I do. Regularly. Introduced to this commanding hunk of Scottish landscape by a man with more than a 1000 notches on his mountaineering bedpost, Munro Moonwalker Alan Rowan, this hill holds a dear place in my heart. From the scramble to find a space for the car at the foot of the hill, to the last trudge to the top after hours of climbing, Stob Dearg – to give the Glen Coe behemoth it's Sunday name – is special. It's not just that it looks most like a mountain drawn by a child with its beautiful pyramidical outline or that is has one of the shortest walk-ins before the climb proper. It's that it represents a place where I've sought solace, lost a friend, gained others and ate sandwiches that by the time we reached the summit weighed a tonne. Each stage of the climb to the top of the Buachaille holds a dear memory. Of different summits, on different days and with different groups of friends. The white cottage, close to the wooden bridge which heralds the start of the walk, was once a prop for a photo, where a friend posed to hold it up in his hand, after we'd managed to get the angles just right of course. Not for the first time did we wonder what it might be like to live there. Right there in the shadow of the hill we climbed every year to mark a friend's
GREAT GLEN: The views from Buachaille Etive Mor, the bridge and white cottage.
birthday. Then, next up, there's the bridge, another natural photo spot to mark the climb, the line-up changing over the years though the broad smiles remain the same no matter the faces. The well worn path winds and leads on gently pulling us on towards yet another watery stop-off point. This time though we halt and briefly raise a glass to a dear friend lost to us prematurely on this beautiful brute. Only a decent dram would do this hilarious sprite justice and that's where we share it with him and with The Buachaille itself. Over the years I've climbed this chunk of rock in varying degrees of fitness. Some years I have languished at the back of the line of wending rucksacks praying to reach the top and for the rain-drenched day to end. On others I have been up front with the serious climbers making light work of the scree slope in the corrie and later its bouldery ridge. On the downhill, there were years when we would run down the loose scree walls. But that practice stopped for me when I snapped a ligament and hobbled back to the car. Pride dented I vowed to walk off in one piece on all subsequent visits. Making it to the top and even being able to climb in the late summer sun and have the hill to myself after every other walker has long since left for the pleasures of the Kings House Hotel far below stays long in the memory. And the view. There's always that view, burned into my mind to be drawn up when needed, for the moments when you need a slice of calm amidst life's hurly burly. But that's what sport and exercise does. It elevates and lifts the soul. It makes you smile. It offers friendships. And, just when you get to the top, someone hands you a Freddo Frog. I'm not saying I'd climb any mountain for a chocolate frog, but it tastes quite magical to have earned that little amphibian for a stroll to the top of The Buachaille. Myrid Ramsay is Managing Partner of Cobaltink Communications and a Scottish Women in Sport Trustee
Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, 3350ft
TOP TIP: WALKING
WHY ACTIVITY IS VITAL FOR US ALL Words: LOUISE CAMERON WALKING is the easiest way to mould some physical activity into our busy lifestyles. When I walk I know my mental, physical and social health are benefiting from this simple activity. Paths for All is a key delivery partner for the Scottish Government’s National Walking Strategy and Physical Activity Implementation Plan. We champion walking for everyone, everyday, everywhere. Walking for health, for leisure or to work or the shops. So why is walking so good? It’s free. You don’t need any special equipment or skills. You can do it throughout the day by making simple choices such as taking the stairs instead of the lift or leaving the car and walking instead when it’s a short journey. The more you walk the more connected you will become with your community; you’ll find new places and see new things you didn’t know existed. It’s really social too, being in the outdoors and walking along beside someone often stimulates great conversation that wouldn’t happen sitting on the sofa together. Lastly, your physical and mental health really benefit. It’s a chance to clear your head and gather your thoughts, while your muscles and joints are quietly working. How do I fit in more walking? I take regular breaks from my desk. Whether it’s walking to a colleague instead of sending an email, or standing for phone calls, reducing our sitting time is really important. I’ll take 15 minutes out of my lunch break to go for a quick walk; it always helps with the post-lunch slump! I’ll park further away. I’ll record my steps and set targets. This can be a really effective motivator. We provide a range of support to help get Scotland walking. We support 380 local health walks which are free, safe, low-level and friendly walks led my trained Walk Leaders. We support Dementia Friendly and cancer specific walks to engage people living with these conditions in physical activity. We also work with local community councils and path groups to improve the maintenance, building and promotion of local paths. We have an invaluable network of volunteers who help us achieve our goals throughout Scotland. We provide our volunteers with lots of up to date training and new skills to help them be walking champions so that they can lead a wide variety of health walks around Scotland. www.pathsforall.org.uk or contact email@example.com
Louise Cameron is Paths for All Communications and Marketing Officer 47
A FAMILY T HE good news for Scots Paralympian Libby Clegg is that she is definitely on a plane to Rio after celebrating a team GB announcement. The bad, however, is that it is the sprinter’s younger brother Stephen who has booked a seat on the official flight as part of the Team GB Paralympic swimming team and she still faces an uncertain few weeks before finding out if she’ll be joining him in the official party, or making her own way with her family to cheer him on. But, after a number of setbacks last year, including illness and injury and the loss of her funding, the Commonwealth champion has posted her third-fastest time and is setting the pace in the selection battle. The 26-year-old former world champion, who has two silver medals from the Beijing and London Paralympics, endured a torrid 2015, after her triumph in the Glasgow games. Libby, who has the degenerative eye condition Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy and is registered blind, missed the European Championships with a virus and was ruled out of the World Championships with an ankle injury. She also ended her successful five-year partnership with guide runner Mikail Huggins. But now, as the clock counts down to final selection deadline for Brazil on July 25, she is confident she is hitting peak at the right time. She said: “I ran a very quick 200m time of 25.24 a couple of weeks ago, the third-fastest time I’ve ran outside the Olympics. We had another 200m where we were a bit out of sync on the bend, so it’s good to have a time down as a marker. Previously my best times have been 25.1 and 25.22 last year at the Anniversary Games. “I’m in really good shape now it’s just about getting the races in and everything coming together. I’ve got a few competitions coming up in the next few weeks but I do feel really good. “To get to Rio with the team would be amazing but I’m going anyway, whether I’m there competing or as a spectator. My little brother Stephen has just qualified for the swimming so I’m really excited about that. I’ll be going regardless. I’m so proud of him. It’s exciting times. “It would mean the world to me. I’ve had a rough couple of years, so it would be great to get there.”
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: Victory at the Anniversary Games Martin Rickett/PA
After winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, 2015 turned out to be a difficult year. But she is now relishing the challenge of going it alone with help from sponsors including SSE and Asics with whom she signed a deal in February, following the loss of her UK Athletics World Class Performance Programme funding. “It was really difficult. I had to pull out of the world championships and I was riddled with
Libby Clegg on her road to Rio
injuries all last year and I obviously lost my funding. It was pretty difficult in December I struggled to pull myself together. “But I’ve got sponsors that support me, so I’m in the fortunate position that I can train and compete and don’t have the financial worries other athletes have. “I’m a lot happier - the happiest I’ve been for a while. It’s really given me the opportunity to take full
GLITTERING SUCCESS: Libby and Mikail show off their medals at Hampden Phil Dye/PA
responsibility for my training, which has been a real positive.” During her time with Mikail Huggins, the pair claimed Paralympic Silver, Gold, Silver (2) and Bronze in the World Championships in the, two European and one Commonwealth Games Gold. In November she paid tribute to him as a guide and friend but pointed to a failure to improve on 2012 49
Paralympics personal bests. and the need to raise the bar again to have a chance of glory in Rio. She has now teamed up with Chris Clarke who represented England and reached the semi-finals of the men’s 200m in the 2014 Games and is bidding to reach the Olympics and Paralymics in Rio. She said: “Chris has a completely different personality to people I’ve worked with in the past. Obviously he’s a fantastic athlete. It’s exciting, I’m really enjoying working with him. It’s all going really well. “There are so many athletes coming through now. There are about 50 spots on the team which sounds like a lot but it’s not when you consider the medal potential. So to make sure I’m on the team I need to be in the top three. I feel that the 200m might be my better event but we’ll have to wait and see.” The loss of funding, after pulling out of the World Championships through injury, she now thinks has been a blessing in disguise. “People sometimes think I can’t be bothered sometimes because I’m quite laid back. I just don’t have any pressure any more, which is a nice place to be because I’m just doing everything for myself, rather than doing something because I’ve been told to do it. “I feel as if I can make my own decisions. It’s the freedom of not being on funding. When I lost that I was upset, predominantly because I wouldn’t be working with my medical support team, who I had been working with for years but it’s been really good for me. It’s highlighted that I actually want to do this. I have to make sure everything I am doing is correct in terms of my lifestyle, diet, recovery and training. I also feel like I’ve got a lot more time to rest and make sure I’m ready for my next session.” Libby trains six days a week at her Loughborough base, with regular trips home to Scotland to catch up with her family when she is not racing on weekends. Scotland remains close to her heart and she was delighted to claim gold in front of a Scots crowd two years ago, though she will not be able to defend her title as the event is not part of Gold Coast 2018 in Australia. “Glasgow was incredible, competing in front of a home crowd. It felt completely different to the Olympics because it was at home. It was
HAMPDEN GOLD: Libby and Mikail win the Women’s 100m T12 Final in 2014 John Giles/PA
such an amazing experience. Everyone in Glasgow is so friendly anyway and were really welcoming to everyone that came. I really loved it. I always knew that I might not be able to defend my title because they do change the events for the Commonwealth Games and I wasn’t sure if they would keep my event in or not. “But it does give other events an opportunity to showcase what they’ve got. So, as much as I was disappointed, it was a good opportunity for other people.” In the last decade Libby has seen the profile and competition levels in disability sport grow steadily since she first burst on the scene as a 16-year-old. She said: “When I was younger I used to do 800m and 1500m. I just jogged 600m then sprinted for 200m. My times were pretty quick and I fancied having a go and really enjoyed it. “We’re on the road to where we want to be but it’s still a work in progress in terms of educating people about disability and disability sport. I definitely think we’re on the right track. Since the Paralympics in London we’ve got our own set of fans now. People see disability as a positive and not a negative. It shows the ability of what people with disabilities can do. That’s absolutely amazing, especially for parents if they have a child with a disability. It gives them hope for the future. “It’s not only just in sport. In the arts and music it’s broadening people’s perceptions in all areas of life.” It’s not just Libby herself who has a sponsor; her guide dog, black labrador retriever cross, Hatti tucks in thanks to dog food manafacturers Eukanuba. She said: “I get to do fun stuff with her thanks to that, including going to Crufts this year which was great. “When I’m not training, I like taking Hatti out for walks, listening to audiobooks, just sitting in the garden and relaxing, especially in the better weather. I just try and see my friends and my family. I’ve made more time for them this year which has been good.” Now she’s hoping the hard work will pay off with some more days in the sun this summer. www.elizabethclegg.co.uk follow Libby on @LibbyClegg
Paralympics WINNER: Libby Clegg is hoping to emulate her medal-winning performances at previous Games John Walton/ PA
Published on Jun 1, 2016
Summer 2016 launch edition of groundbreaking print and digital magazine focusing on women's sport in Scotland and beyond. Inspirational stor...