In the fourth of her exclusive blogs for The Mixed Zone, 400-metres hurdler Eilidh Doyle offers an insight into her final preparations ahead of the Olympic Games, which start on August 5. She reveals that she is primed and ready for action, though fully aware that over-confidence could trip her up as much as any obstacle on the track
It’s almost here. After months of build-up, I leave for Brazil on Tuesday. It’s a strange feeling knowing that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is now little more than a week away; it doesn’t feel anything like it did a few weeks out from London 2012. Actually, it still doesn’t feel like there’s an Olympics just around the corner, although I’m sure it will as soon we get out to Rio. At the moment I feel quite calm and relaxed about everything. I’m just trying to get myself ready for leaving and doing last-minute things like getting my jabs.
I’m getting really excited about racing in Rio because I feel like I’m in great shape. July has been a brilliant month for me. It began with the European Championships in Holland and I was part of the 4 x 400 relay team who won gold. It was a different type of championships for me, though, because I wasn’t running the hurdles, where I was defending champion, just the relay. I watched the hurdles final in the warm-up area and it was strange to watch someone take the title that I won two years ago. But I knew that I’d gone there to argue my case for a spot in the relay team for Rio.
We went to Holland with the aim of winning gold. That was the only colour of medal that we wanted, and we knew that if we ran to our potential we could do it. I don’t run the 400 flat too often and I wanted to remind the selectors that I can still run a decent 400 metres. It was also good for me because I was pleased with my split-times and it proved to me that I’m in good shape over the flat. I really enjoy being part of the relay team – we’ve got a great squad and it’s really fun to be a part of it.
After the Europeans, I headed to Monaco for the Diamond League meeting. It was a good night for me: I won the race and also set a personal best, which I was really happy about. It was funny, though, because when I crossed the line, I was annoyed with myself. I’d put in an extra stride at hurdle 10, and as I finished I was thinking that it could have been better. But when I watched it back I realised how good it was to have won another Diamond League meeting. It’s also really encouraging to run a personal best and know that I’ve still got room for improvement.
The Monaco meeting was also memorable because Paula Radcliffe’s daughter, Isla, was my kit-carrier. I’d heard that she was a kit-carrier and as I came out for my race, I said ‘Hi’ because I always speak to my kit-carrier. But I didn’t think too much about it because I was concentrating on the race. Then afterwards, Allison Curbishley, the former 400-metre runner who was there with the BBC, tweeted me asking if I realised that it was Paula’s daughter.
That evening, Paula, her husband and their two kids were at the hotel and I was chatting to them all, which was really nice. Some of the other athletes like Bolt are so funny with their kit-carriers and I always speak to mine. I always think it’s nice to chat to them, especially when it’s a kid because I remember being that age and thinking that the athletes were brilliant. I think Isla must be my lucky charm, though – I wish I could take her to Rio with me!
My final race before Rio was the Anniversary Games in London last Friday. I finished fourth after messing up the final hurdle. I know what I did wrong: I was too aware of where other people were in the race and what they were doing. That’s when I don’t run as well. My best races are when I’m on auto-pilot. I just need to simplify everything and not over-think things. When I just run my own race and forget about everything else, that’s when I run well.
Quite a few people have been asking me if I’m getting nervous about Rio, but actually I’m not too bad at all. I think the experience of Glasgow 2014 has really helped me because with that being a home Games for me, I’ll never get that kind of attention again so that type of pressure won’t occur again. Similarly, I felt under a lot of pressure at the European Championships a few weeks after the Commonwealth Games because I went ranked number one in Europe. And what is so helpful to me is that now I know that when I am under pressure I am able to deliver. And when I have attention on me I am also able to deliver. So I’m able to draw on those experiences now which is really useful.
There’s been a few mentions of me in the press saying I have medal potential in Rio. I take that as a real compliment because it means that I must be running well for people to think that. Personally, though, I never think about medals because I can’t control that. All I can control is my own performance. It’s all about the mindset and if you start saying you’re going there to win the gold medal, it probably won’t happen. I just think about myself and how I can run my best race. That’s the calmest way to think about things.
My own nerves might not be too bad, but my husband, Brian, and my dad are the worst people ever when it comes to nerves. My mum’s OK with watching me run, but my dad is a total nightmare. He’s been like that since I was about 13. When my race was on at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow they went right to the back of the stand because they just couldn’t watch. They find it really difficult. I think they’re so nervous because they just want me to run well, and to be happy, but they can’t do anything about it.
The news that’s come out over the past few weeks about the Russian doping scandal has been really shocking. I can’t believe the scale of it. For me, it was good news that the Court of Arbitration for Sport declined the Russian track and field athletes’ appeal last week meaning that the whole Russian athletics team is banned from competing in Rio. But for the IOC not to put a blanket ban on Russia is, I think, a bit of a cop out. Personally, I just can’t trust any Russian athlete. Having said that, I do feel sorry for any of them who are clean and have trained for years to get to the Olympic Games. But I think a precedent needs to be set and it needs to be shown that this kind of cheating is just not OK.
I think a really important part of this issue is the public who will be watching the Games. The Olympics are supposed to be this magical event and you don’t want people to be watching athletes with Russian vests on because it puts a dark cloud over the entire Games. I do feel for any clean athletes caught up in it, but frankly it’s the fault of the Russian Federation and the Russian Government who were encouraging this doping to go on. They’re the ones who have let the clean athletes in their country down. If any banned athletes are angry, it’s their federation and government they should be angry with.
I’m going to put any thoughts of doping stories out of my head over the next week and just concentrate on my own preparation. When I leave on Tuesday, I’m going straight to a holding camp in Belo Horizonte and then I move into the Athletes’ Village on August 12. I’m really, really looking forward to the whole experience. It’s so exciting knowing that I’m going into the Olympics in the shape of my life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eilidh Doyle (formerly Eilidh Child) is a 400 metres hurdler who has represented GB for the past seven years. She is reigning European champion, as well as having won two Commonwealth silver medals and two World Championship bronze medals. She was a member of Team GB at London 2012 and is currently training for Rio 2016. Eilidh is originally from Perth but is now based in Bath with her husband, Brian, and her dog, Ben. Eilidh’s latest articles.
Eilidh was talking to Susan Egelstaff
Susan Egelstaff is an Olympic badminton player who competed at London 2012, as well as representing Scotland at three Commonwealth Games, winning two bronze medals. She retired in the aftermath of the London Games after a 12-year international career. Having written the occasional article for newspapers while still competing, she decided to try and make sports journalism a job. Susan is now a columnist and sports writer with The Herald, The Sunday Herald and The National and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland. Susan is also heavily involved with the Winning Scotland Foundation, a charity which helps children achieve their goals. Susan’s latest articles.