A British athletics stadium hasn’t shaken and boomed since Super Saturday as Eilish McColgan completed the last corner of the women’s 10,000m, ready to jump for the first major title of her career.
At the time, the 31-year-old doubted whether she had the legs or the lungs to pass Kenyan Irene Cheptai. But when the 30,000 people in the Alexander Stadium jumped to their feet, she once again found the power of the noise and good vibrations to win the gold medal.
But her parties had only just begun. McColgan soon ran to her mother 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 most fragile of hearts.
“My family was here, the crowd in those last 100 meters, it was shaking my own body,” McColgan said after taking the win in 30 minutes 48.60 seconds. “I wouldn’t have finished it without the audience. I wanted it so badly.”
“I know the girls were super strong. But I knew if I could stay with them, I could win a medal. This is an absolute dream.”
What made McColgan’s win all the more impressive is that she came in a year in which she was wiped out for seven weeks due to Covid, as well as suffering further illness and minor injuries in the lead up to last month’s world championships, where she finished 10th.
“It’s just been a year of ups and downs with Covid, a new disease, a few glitches at the wrong time,” she said. “But I knew the fitness was in me. I couldn’t have wished for more.”
To make things even more fun, this was McColgan’s fourth race at a Commonwealth Games dating back to her first attempt in Delhi in 2010.
“This is my fourth Commonwealth Games and my fourth event – I’ve done the 1500m, the 5km, the steeplechase,” she said with a smile. “And I’ve finished sixth every time. I finally found the event and winning tonight is incredible. It’s crazy.”
Admittedly, this was a weakened field, with neither Hellen Obiri nor 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 over 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 great to see. It was very nerve-wracking. This has taken a long time for Eilish. She sorted it all out. I know the hard work she does. It’s great that it all came together.
“As a mom, it’s great to see your daughter win this race — and to win it in the same event I won it in.”
Later in the evening, Elaine Thompson-Herah added the Commonwealth 100m gold to her vast collection of Olympic and World titles with an easy win in 10.95 seconds. But for Darryl Neita from England it was a matter of what could have been.
In the semi-finals, Neita broke her personal best by running 10.90, but when it really mattered, she got off to a terrible start as Thompson-Herah cleared away.
Neita recovered to take bronze in 11.07, while Julien Alfred claimed silver. But afterwards, Neita said she let a potential gold medal slip. “I ran a PB in the semi-final and got a bronze medal, but I didn’t put together the best race in the final and have to take the positives.
“I looked back at the start and I didn’t execute it well enough,” she added. “I let myself down. I go back, check it out with my coach, analyze it, get a call, beat myself up.
“It shows that my pick-up is phenomenal, but I can’t afford to run 10.90 in the semi-final and then 11.07 in the final. It’s not good enough.
It’s frustrating because I was able to win it and I really let myself down.
“But the only thing about me is that I’m able to turn every negative thing into something positive. I’ll use this to build for the next.”
Meanwhile, Thompson-Herah was content with a job well done. “I feel good, I could have had a better performance, but I’m still grateful to have won my first Commonwealth title,” she said. “I started as a rookie in 2014. Then I finished fourth in the 200m in 2018. Now I’ve switched to gold, so I’m grateful.”
In the men’s 100 meters, Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala won in a modest 10.02 seconds ahead of South Africa’s Akani Simbine and Sri Lanka’s Yupun Abeykoon. “I feel great,” said the 26-year-old, who served a 14-month drug ban in 2017. “This is what I wanted.”