Eilidh Doyle is one of the most bemedaled athletes in Scottish and British history. This is part one of the six part piece by Stuart Weir on this fine athletes.
Many Americans will remember Eilidh Doyle with some of her amazing 4x400m relays in global championships.
Eilidh Doyle, reflection on a great career
Earlier this year Eilidh Doyle pulled down the curtain on an illustrious career. I spoke to her at the time of the announcement but with Olympics, Diamond League finals etc we decided to keep the tribute piece until a time when it would not be crowded out by event results. This is a well-researched piece. I have seen Eilidh Doyle run 150 times in 17 countries in Olympics, World Championships, World Relays, Commonwealth Games, European Championships. Indoors and out, over hurdles, the flat and in relays. I was even allowed to watch a training session on one occasion. She was a great athlete but also simply one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. And I feel too that you need to know that she was only a Scottish under 13 swimming champion – since you asked in butterfly.
So why did she decide to end her career at this point: “While it might seem sudden to some people, it is something that has been there for some time. I think I felt a difference since I came back from Australia in 2018. I remember coming back from Gold Coast and it had been such an amazing trip. Not just the silver medal but carrying the flag for Scotland, being in the team and being in amongst it all. I remember coming back exhausted but content as well. Brian [husband and coach] and I had booked a weekend away just to reset and get ready for our outdoor season. I remember thinking that weekend ‘what a great champsThe Commonwealths had been’ and feeling that really I could just retire on the back of that and be really happy to go out on a high. But then there was a European Championship that year followed by European Indoors in Glasgow, there was always something to go on for. But just the fact that I’d said the word ‘retire’ out loud showed that it was playing on my mind that I was coming towards the end of my career.
“Having my son Campbell [born January 2020] was a nice transition without taking me away from the sport completely and saying ‘that’s me done’. Then after having Campbell I really wanted to get back physically – purely from my own motivation to get back. And the 2020 Olympics seemed a perfect opportunity to do that. So had the 2020 Olympics gone ahead I would have tried to be in it and then to retire on the back of it. But with what has happened in the last two years, it has just been slowly niggling away at me. Then with the injuries this year and being on the track with Brian and him asking me ‘what are you still doing it for?’ and my answer was becoming ‘there isn’t the same reason that there was when I was younger’. The desire to go away and compete and be an athlete on the circuit was no longer there. So I thought it was time to step away from the competitive side of athletics”.
I wondered if she was interested in becoming a coach. Arguably her qualifications as a PE teacher and her experience as an elite athlete would equip her well to coach: “No, I don’t think so. Maybe some time in the future but at the moment I need to be able to step away and recognize that I’m no longer an athlete. I have spoken to people who went into coaching right away who said ‘now I’m a coach but I still feel like an athlete’. I definitely want to stay in the sport. I am on the board of Scottish Athletics and having that role is very important. I think what I will do is pursue some things that I was never able to do when I was an athlete. Perhaps something with Sport Scotland. I did some work with Education Scotland when I was pregnant, looking at some of the barriers to sport for young people and I really enjoy doing that work. The next few months will be about having conversations, making connections and seeing what is out there – what I would be good at and what I would enjoy doing and exploring that”.