Can you believe the Olympics start on Friday? Only seems like a short time since the excitement of the London Olympics in 2012. Think back on the past four years and see how much has changed for you. Time really does fly. Each time the Olympics come round, many of the same names are mentioned with many great Scots included.
This year there are a record number of great Scots included in Team GB for Rio 2016. 50 Scottish athletes are competing, so we’re taking a look at some of the best Scottish Olympians from past and present.
Team GB 2016
There are 366 British athletes competing in 23 sports in Rio this year, the largest number in 24 years. There are more female athletes included than ever before, with Team GB being made up of 164 women and 202 men – just 10% away from a 50/50 split!
The most experienced GB Olympic athlete (ever!) competing in Rio is Show-Jumping legend, Nick Skelton OBE, who is all ready for his seventh Olympic appearance. His first was in 1988 and this year he partners his London 2012 medal winning horse, Big Star.
The oldest Team GB competitor is Show-Jumping legend John Whitaker, who turns 61 at the Opening Ceremony on Friday. Whitaker is almost half a century older than Team GB’s youngest member, 16 year-old gymnast Amy Tinkler.
In a recent interview, Nick Skelton joked that 33 year old double Olympic medalist, Ben Maher, brings the average age of the Jumping team (which also includes John Whitaker’s younger brother Michael) down to 54!
Great Scots – Athletics
Scotland’s first ever individual medal winner was Wyndham Halswelle. Most famous for his controversial 400m win at the 1908 London Olympics, which sparked a diplomatic incident! With only 4 men in the race, Halswelle was the only British athlete running against 3 Americans.
Foul-play was called by officials when one American, John Carpenter, tried to block Halswelle. Carpenter was eventually disqualified and the other two Americans boycotted the race. Halswelle declined to race alone, feeling it was unsporting. The Officials insisted and he did race, receiving a gold medal. He was also the first British athlete to win a gold, silver and bronze medal.
Another great Scot in Athletics was Eric Liddell, perhaps most well known thanks to the Oscar-winning film ‘Chariots of Fire’. The film is loosely based on his life.
Born in Tientsin, China to missionary parents he was a devout Christian. His sporting career began as a winger for Scotland Rugby XV whilst studying at Edinburgh University. More focused on running, he competed at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
The 100m was Eric Liddell’s strongest event, however he found out 6 months before the Games that the 100m would be on the Sunday. Due to his religious beliefs he chose not to enter this race and instead focused on training for the 200m and 400m. He won a bronze medal in the 200m and won gold in the 400m, saying ”The secret of my success over the 400m is that I run the first 200m as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200m, with God’s help, I run faster.”
This year at Rio in the athletics there are 15 (out of 80) Team GB athletes are Scottish, including Lynsey Sharp (800m), Eilish McColgan (5,000m) and Derek Hawkins (marathon).
Great Scots – Swimming
David Wilkie goes down in history as the first British male swimmer to win a gold medal for 68 years, winning the 200m breaststroke in 1976. His time was 3 seconds faster than the world’s best and a Scottish record until 2001, when Ian Edmond beat it.
Hamilton born Helen Gordon was a triple Olympian. Competing at her first Olympics in London 1948 at the age of 15. She was Britain’s only swimming medalist at the next Olympics, winning bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
The ‘Falkirk Flyer’ Bobby McGregor first represented Scotland age 16, setting a world record. This led to him being named Captain of Team GB at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
One third of Team GB is made up of Scottish swimmers this year, including Hannah Miley and Robbie Renwick who are heading to their third Olympics and Craig Benson, who after being the youngest Team GB member at London 2012, is heading to his second Olympics.
Great Scots – Other Sports
Launceston Elliot was the first ever British Olympic Athlete, and GB’s first ever gold medal winner. He won the single-handed lift in Weightlifting (not a class any more) at the 1896 Olympics and silver in the two-handed event as well.
He also competed in Greco-Roman wrestling (5th), 14m rope climb (5th) and he ran in the opening round of the 100m (4th). As the 100m was the first event of the 1896 Olympics it makes Elliot the first ever British competitor in a modern Olympics.
This year the inclusion of Rugby 7’s means we see many Edinburgh and Glasgow players heading out to Rio. Glasgow Warriors and Scotland International centre Mark Bennett is included on the 15-man squad alongside Scotland Sevens players Jamie Farndale, Gavin Lowe, Scott Riddell and Mark Robertson. Stephanie Johnston is one of just two non-English players in the women’s 7’s squad, along with Jasmine Joyce of Wales.
Andy Murray, this years Wimbledon Champion, will be defending his London 2012 singles gold medal and will also partner his brother Jamie Murray in the doubles, hoping to better his mixed doubles silver medal fro 2012.
Former Women’s British Open Champion, Catriona Matthew is looking forward to representing Team GB in the Golf, which is included in the Olympics for the first time in 112 years.
With such a spread of experience and age, what can this record-breaking team accomplish at Rio 2016 and can they match or better the accomplishments of athletes of the past. We think adding the excitement of the Olympics to the buzz of Edinburgh Festival calls for a well-deserved break so Stay and Save with us from September 2016.