With Tokyo secured, Team GB and Scotland star Eilish McColgan has again written her name into the record books by qualifiying for the Olympic Games for a third time!
Earlier this year Eilish set a new PB alongside the second best Scottish time ever to run 10,000m, with a time of 30 minutes 58.94, just 1 second behind her mum; Liz McColgan, a record she sat and has held since 1991.
With the Olympic games now only a matter of weeks away, we thought we would take a look back to 2019, when we have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Eilish, focused around her career (until then) and an insight in to what it means to run for your country at the Olympic Games.
HOW WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF THE OLYMPICS AT LONDON 2012?
London was my first major championship, so for me it was a huge step-up in performance. I’d gone from competing in Grangemouth Stadium (East Stirlingshire) with about ten people in the stands and then out of nowhere I had qualified for the Olympic Games. So to go from that to the spotlight of having 80,000 people in the (Olympic) Stadium was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.
But I would say because that was my first experience of it, it set me up for the rest of my career. Nothing had ever been as intense as that. I learnt from that experience, even though it was a scary one!
On reflection London was really disappointing for me performance wise, but in Rio I was a lot more prepared. I was four years older, I was mentally and physically stronger, and I was over the moon to make the final (5000m).
I feel like now in another four years, Tokyo 2020 is my next big goal. Every year I have just progressed bit by bit. So for me now I want to see realistically how close I can get to an Olympic medal. Am I going to win one? I don’t know if that’s a realistic goal. Maybe not a gold, but I feel that I am getting closer to an Olympic medal. For me that’s really exciting.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE LIVING IN THE OLYMPIC VILLAGE?
It was just a weird experience, it’s something I can’t explain, it’s just a big BIG bubble! You have people from all different sports and you’re alongside people you have watched. Proper celebrities like Usain Bolt, Chris Hoy and Andy Murray, it’s just such a weird experience! You have the top athletes from all different sports from all around the world and you’re all living in the same huge bubble.
There was a bank, hairdresser, nail salon, even a McDonald’s, it was literally a city within a small enclosed space. Of course it was a great experience to be a part of, but it was a bit overwhelming when it’s something you’re not used to. It certainly wasn’t like anything I’d ever been to before. Though, it did give me that drive that I knew I wanted to be part of it again and be there the next time round, to see how fast you can go next time.
TWO YEARS LATER YOU FOUND YOURSELF IN GLASGOW FOR THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
I have been so fortunate to have had two experiences like that in my life. There are not many people who have had a home championship after the Olympics (in London). But having the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which for Scotland was huge, was fantastic.
It was the first time all of my friends and all of my family were in the crowd. They never get the chance to come and watch me run. In Brazil in 2016 there was just me so having them in the stands made it that little more special.
I was able to see my granny, my mum and everyone who had travelled through to be there. It was such an amazing experience knowing that they were supporting you. People from the age of 12 when I started this sport were there in the stadium (Hampden Park). That made it much more special having it in Glasgow. I was really fortunate to be a part of that.
I’ve got Glasgow 2019 this year, the European Indoors in March. So for me that’s a big BIG goal and a big motivation for me is to try and medal in front of a home crowd. That would be really special!
EUROPEAN 5000M SILVER MEDALLIST, HOW DID THAT FEEL?
Berlin is one of the most historic, iconic Olympic stadiums so it was by far the most amazing moment in my career to date. Standing on top of the podium, getting my medal, overlooking so much history was really cool!
The only downside was that none of my family or friends could be there. These are the moments that you really want to share with them. I had to just make sure that I called them as soon as I could. They take your phone off you and you don’t get your phone for ages. I was so excited and I just wanted to share that moment with the people that mean the most to me and the people that had obviously got me to that point as well.
Obviously it was a shame that it wasn’t in Glasgow like all the other events. The athletics were in Berlin so it was a bit of a downer. But it makes me more determined now to win another European medal. But this time to do it in Scotland would mean a lot to me.
Eilish’s career and progress thus far is there for all to see. She is not phased by the fact both her parents were well known athletes in their own right – Peter & Liz McColgan. Winning the 2018 Great South Run, she followed in her mother’s footsteps (Liz winning in 1995 & 1997). How fitting would it be were she to win that elusive Olympic medal in the same city – Tokyo – where Liz won Gold in the World Championships with a lifetime best of 30:57:07 in the 10,000m.
If you wish to watch the interview in full, check out this video!
This article was first published in January 2019 and updated in June 2021.