McColgan: 'Competing for Olympic medal would be stuff of fairytales'

Eilish McColgan doesn't think it's realistic to picture a podium finish in Paris.

Scottish track star Eilish McColgan has admitted her chance of adding an Olympic medal to her achievements is “the stuff of fairytales” after a knee injury forced her out of running for six months. 

But the 33-year-old Commonwealth 10,000m champion said that managing to qualify for Team GB for the upcoming games in Paris would be a proud achievement given her battle to regain fitness. 

McColgan began last year in the form of her life and was eyeing a move to the marathon for the 2024 Olympics but she has had to shelve that plan as she builds herself back up to full health.

Speaking to STV Sport, she said: “The very start of my year in 2023 was amazing. I broke the British record for 10,000m, training was going better than ever before. 

“But I was carrying a knee injury throughout that time. I managed it and that’s part and parcel of the sport. 

“Ultimately the amount of training I had to do for the London Marathon got to the point where I could not physically get through it. 

“I have been through the whole process, I just haven’t finally got that fairytale race where I have stood on a marathon start line and finished one. 

“There will be another marathon and I am sure there will be one in my future very, very soon.” 

McColgan is coached by her mum Liz McColgan, herself a Commonwealth champion in 1986 and 1990, as well as an Olympic silver medallist in 1988. 

Liz said: “She was just tapping in to what she is capable of doing. She ran 30.001 and that is quick. 

“For her to do that just opened up a world of possibilities to what Eilish is capable of doing if she is healthy. 

“I firmly believe that she could be one of the top class marathon runners in the world.” 

With training going well, Eilish lined up for Great Britain at the European Championships in Rome at the start of June but was unable to finish the 10,000m final. 

That was a setback in her dream of going to a fourth Olympics but she is not giving up hope of once again competing on athletics’ biggest stage. 

Asked is she could have imagined going for a fourth consecutive games when she made her Olympic debut in London in 2012, Eilish said: “Not at all. I couldn’t even believe I had made London in the first place! 

“It was an incredible experience for me being thrown into a stadium with 60,000 people screaming having come from Grangemouth with about three people in the stand. 

“I was way out of my depth but I learnt more in that race than anywhere else throughout my career. 

“To now be on the brink of making my fourth Olympics is something I am really proud of.” 

However the Dundee-based runner has had to lower her expectations should she successfully make the team. 

Asked if she could dream of adding an Olympic medal to her Commonwealth and European gongs, she said: “Realistically this year, no. Having spent almost six months not running at all, that really would be the stuff of fairytales if I am totally honest, to think I can compete with the best in the world when they have been training the whole year round.” 

It has been two years since Eilish had her fairytale finish at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, winning gold in front of a frenzied crowd to propel her to become one of Scottish athletics’ most famous faces. 

She said: “It is very rare for me to have my mum, my dad and my partner Michael all in the stands and for that race to go so well. 

“To break the Commonwealth record and also with the history of my mum doing it too, it was a weird experience. 

“I have never had a crowd like that, it was just insane. The buzz over that final lap was just crazy. I have never had a stadium erupt the way it did. 

“That really did boost me towards the finishing line – I have never felt that sort of flush of energy from the crowd rather than myself.” 

It was an evening that lives on in Liz’s memories as coach, mum and fellow Commonwealth champion. 

She said: “It was very emotional, nerve-wracking, but it was so much more than pride that I felt. 

“Eilish is really hard working, really down-to-earth and so honest in her approach to everything so for her to have that moment just meant to the world to me. 

“It was far better than anything I ever experienced as an athlete.” 

And the fame that Eilish has found since Birmingham still has not sunk in for her. 

Eilish said: “It wasn’t til later on in the year when I came back home people were stopping me in the street, randomly going to Aldi and just all the time! 

“I still find it weird now. My partner and I went on holiday to Egypt and a couple stopped us. 

“I was just in totally normal, casual clothes in the middle of Egypt and someone was like ‘you’re that girl from the Commonwealth Games – McColgan!’. 

“I found it bizarre. When I am in running gear I sort of get it because I’m tall, skinny, lanky with blonde hair and I maybe stand out a bit but when I am in casual clothes I think ‘how the hell did you spot that?’” 

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