THERE have been waves of excitement for Scottish sports supporters at the Tokyo Olympics with swimmer Duncan Scott becoming the first British athlete of any discipline to win four medals in one Games.
The pool also led to a first Olympic Gold and world record for OSS Ambassador Kathleen Dawson, whose triumph brought a first Scottish female swimming gold in over 100 years. The Kirkcaldy-born athlete, based at the University of Stirling along with Scott, led off on the backstroke leg in the new Mixed Medley relay which pitched her against some of the best men in the world. She produced a fine swim to hand over to Adam Peaty, and a superb breaststroke split from the multi-Olympic medalist put the team firmly in the mix. Next in was James Guy, who swam a fast butterfly leg that pushed GB into the lead for Anna Hopkin to finish the freestyle leg in a brilliant split, to claim victory by 1.3 seconds from the Chinese team, and breaking the world record the GB team had set in the heats. Dawson becomes only the second female Scottish swimmer to win an Olympic gold ever, following in the footsteps of Belle Cameron (nee Moore), in 1912.
This follows on from Scott’s performances, where he became the first male Scottish swimmer to win gold since David Wilkie in 1976, en route to a GB record haul of four medals in one games – one gold and three silver – and place among the most decorated British Olympians in history. His total of six medals from the last two Olympic Games puts Scott level with rower Sir Steve Redgrave and gymnast Max Whitlock with only Sir Bradley Wiggins (8), Jason Kenny (8) and Sir Chris Hoy (7) ahead of him – and, at 24, the Scot has every chance of adding to his tally with the next Olympics in Paris only three years away.
Dawson, who suffered a serious knee ligament injury three years ago, said following the race: “If you had told me back in 2018, when I had my injury, I would be Olympic Champion at the end of a delayed Olympics, I wouldn’t have believed you.
“I can’t quite believe it – a gold and a world record. I managed to focus on my own race and do the best I could do to get these guys in a position to fight for the gold medal.
“We knew we had a great opportunity but it was a case of, can we all come together and pull off the best swim we ever had.”
The University of Stirling’s Head Performance Swim Coach and a Team GB coach Steven Tigg said: “When I spoke to Kathleen after the race, she was still in a bit of shock – but being an Olympic champion and world record-breaker does that! After her anterior cruciate injury in 2018, this achievement may have seemed impossible. But the support in place within the programme, along with her determination, has culminated in her dream becoming a reality.”
Kirsty Gilmour from Glasgow, another OSS Ambassador, qualified for her second Olympic Games and competed in the women’s singles badminton competition in Tokyo. She showed tremendous form to win her opening game against leading Pakistan player Mahoor Shahzad 21-14, 21-14, but Kirsty, ranked 15th in the world, then found herself up against one of the tournament favourites, fourth seed Akane Yamaguchi from Japan, and despite a valiant fightback in the second set went out of the competition to the home player, 21-9, 21-18.
However, Kirsty also had reason to doubt she would even feature in Tokyo after suffering a foot injury in December which forced her to spend the turn of the year on crutches. She worked hard with her physios and in training to recover from the injury and then secure qualification for a second Games with fine form, but did miss out on the usual competitive build-up to a major event. The draw ultimately proved too big an obstacle with the Japanese player, a World Championships bronze medalist, coming through in her home event.
“My intentions and my intensity and my focus is always the same,” said Kirsty. “There’s the same effort going into it so to be rewarded with the points in the second game is good.
“I don’t think I played badly in the first game – she’s just a very, very solid opponent and has built her career on that. It’s very difficult to get winning shots out of her and to force errors from here, I feel I managed that pretty well in the second game.”
She added: “I think I coped pretty well but perhaps just out of match practice in the past few weeks. So, I wouldn’t say I was satisfied with my Olympic performance, going out of the group stages, but if I look at the specific match performance, I managed to implement a lot of the things that I’ve been training and working on.
“Now, it’s a rest, but after that I’m really excited to get back in to training, back into the tournaments, because I think that’s something I’ve really been missing lately, that kind of match-play, to incorporate all my things from training. I’m excited for what’s to come.”
The OSS and all of our supporters send the biggest congratulations to Kathleen and Kirsty, and the rest of Team GB in their performances.
Pictures courtesy of Team GB.