British 400m hurdler Eilidh Doyle speaks to the press (© Getty Images)
Speaking on the eve of the IAAF World Championships London 2017, British team captain Eilidh Doyle urged her teammates to draw on the home support and focus on personal bests rather than medals, in order to rise to the occasion.
In her captain's team speech – which Performance Director Neil Black described as “incredible and hugely motivating” – the 2014 European 400m hurdles champion referred to her somewhat contrasting experiences of racing in two home championships: the London 2012 Olympic Games and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“In London, I found it overwhelming,” said the Olympic 4x400m bronze medallist. “In Glasgow, however, I embraced it and got to do a lap of honour,” recalled the twice Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles silver medallist from Delhi in 2010 and Glasgow in 2014.
Doyle, who took a second successive Commonwealth silver in front of a home Scottish crowd in Glasgow in 2014, was able to pass on valuable advice to her fellow Britons.
“I feel so honoured to have been voted team captain by my teammates,” said the 2013 European indoor silver medallist. “I'm in a lucky position where I went to London in 2012 and Glasgow in 2014, so I have experienced it before. I took my team speech very seriously and really tried to emphasise that it is about thriving on the atmosphere.”
The 87-strong team may be the largest ever to represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland at an IAAF World Championships, but given the youthful nature of the squad, Doyle is trying not to focus on medal targets and is instead calling for athletics enthusiasts to gauge success on lifetime bests and bringing younger athletes through for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“Athletics is a sport that everyone can do from across the world, so it is really difficult to win medals,” said the 30-year-old. “We have so many talented athletes coming through, so we should be focusing on who capitalises on the home support and really steps up.”
Black echoed those sentiments. “I don't really believe in setting medal targets,” he said. “It is a post-Olympic year, which can create a bit of a lull, but the British team excelled at the recent 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, which has put more pressure on us. I’m hoping that we, too, can buck the trend.”
That said, there is plenty to be excited about within the British team. Black confirmed that Mo Farah is in the kind of form that could see him win his third consecutive world 5000m and 10,000m double to go alongside his Olympic doubles from 2012 and 2016. Also – and particularly close to Doyle's heart – is the fact that there are 16 Scottish athletes on the British team, more than doubling the previous record for an IAAF World Championships, when there were seven Scots on the team in 2015.
“I am so proud of all the Scots,” said Doyle. “When I went to my first World Championships in 2009, there were only two Scots, myself and Lee McConnell.”
Black also acknowledged the massive contribution of athletes from north of the border and reiterated that there is “something special evolving there”.
And when asked about who could provide some of the biggest surprises on the host team, Doyle highlighted a fellow Scot.
“We have some great sprinters and Chris O’Hare has been running really well with his Scottish 1500m record in Monaco and an IAAF Diamond League win at the London Müller Anniversary Games, so I am excited to see what he can do,” she said.
“I know there has been a lot of attention on the fact that it is Usain Bolt and Mo Farah's last major championships on the track,” she added. “But we have some exciting athletes coming through and I’m excited to see how they can step up.”
Emily Moss for the IAAF