Not since Super Saturday has a British athletics stadium rocked and roared the way it did as Eilish McColgan rounded the final bend of the women’s 10,000m, ready to pounce for the first major title of her career.
At that stage the 31-year-old was unsure whether she had the legs or the lungs to kick past the Kenyan Irene Cheptai. But as the 30,000 crowd in the Alexander Stadium jumped to their feet, she found new powers from the noise and good vibrations to take the gold medal.
But her celebrations had barely started. McColgan was soon running towards her mother Ella Liz, who also won gold for Scotland over the same distance at the 1986 and 1990 Commonwealth Games, to share an embrace that would have dismantled even the flintiest of Ella’s hearts.
“My family were here, the crowd on that last 100m, well it was vibrating through my own body,” said McColgan after she took victory in 30min 48.60sec. “Without the crowd, I wouldn’t have finished that. I wanted it so badly.”
“I know the girls were super strong. But I knew if I could stay with them I had a chance of a medal. This is an absolute dream.”
What made McColgan’s victory all the more impressive is that it came during a year in which she was wiped out for seven weeks due to Covid, and also suffered further illness and minor injuries in the run up to last month’s world championships where she finished 10th.
“It has just been an up and down year with Covid, another illness, a couple of niggles at the wrong time,” she said. “But I knew the fitness was in me. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
To make things even sweeter, this was McColgan’s fourth race at a Commonwealth Games going back to her first attempt at Delhi in 2010.
“This is my fourth Commonwealth Games and my fourth event – I have done the 1500m, the 5km, the steeplechase,” she said, smiling. “And I have finished sixth every time. I have finally found the event and to win tonight is incredible. It’s mad.”
Admittedly this was a weakened field, with neither Hellen Obiri or Margaret Kipkemboi, the silver and bronze medalists at the recent world championships, here in Birmingham. But no one would begrudge McColgan this after so many near misses down the years.
No wonder her mother Liz was also ecstatic. “She ran the race I always knew she was capable of running,” she said. “It was amazing to watch. It was very nerve-racking. This has been a long time coming for Eilish. She put it all together. I know the hard work she does. It’s fantastic it has all come together.
“As a mother, to witness your daughter winning this race is amazing – and to win it in the same event I won it in too.”
Later in the evening, Elaine Thompson-Herah added the Commonwealth 100m gold to her vast collection of Olympic and world titles with an easy victory in 10.95sec. But for England’s Darryl Neita it was a case of what might have been.
In the semi-finals Neita smashed her personal best by running 10.90 but when it really mattered she made an appalling start as Thompson-Herah streaked clear.
Neita recovered to take bronze in 11.07, with Julien Alfred claiming silver. But afterwards Neita said she had let a potential gold medal slip away. “I ran a PB in the semi-final and got a bronze medal, but I didn’t put the best race together in the final and have to take the positives.
“I watched the start back and I didn’t execute it well enough,” she added. “I let myself down. I will go back, watch it with my coach, analyze it, get told off, beat myself up.
“It shows my pick up is phenomenal but I can’t afford to run 10.90 in the semi and then 11.07 in the final. It’s not good enough.
It’s frustrating because I was capable of winning it and I really let myself down.
“But the one thing about me is I’m able to turn every single negative thing into a positive. I’ll use this to build up for the next thing.”
Meanwhile Thompson-Herah was pleased with a job well done. “I feel good, I could have had a better execution, but I am still grateful to win my first Commonwealth title,” she said. “I started out as a rookie in 2014. Then I was fourth in 2018 in the 200m. Now I have moved up to a gold, so I am grateful.”
In the men’s 100m Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala won in a modest 10.02sec ahead of South Africa’s Akani Simbine and Yupun Abeykoon of Sri Lanka. “I am feeling great,” said the 26-year-old, who served a 14-month drug ban in 2017. “This is what I wanted.”