by Craig Wright
With just over two weeks to go until the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, nine University of Stirling students have flown out to continue their preparations ahead of competition beginning in earnest.
The group includes six members of Team Scotland, including defending Commonwealth 200m breaststroke champion Ross Murdoch, who claimed gold at Glasgow 2014.
Also included are double Olympic medallist Duncan Scott, world championship finalist Kathleen Dawson and former world junior champion Craig Benson.
Scott McLay and Craig MacLean complete the Scottish contingent, who will be coached by the university’s own Steven Tigg.
Meanwhile, Calum Bain and Jamie Graham will represent Northern Ireland at the upcoming Games, with Aimee Willmott competing under the banner of Team England.
Speaking to the university, McLay expressed his excitement at being selected for his first senior major championships.
He said: “It feels incredible to be selected for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. I remember watching it at Glasgow 2014 and thinking I would never be at the level, and now that I am, it just means a lot to me.
“I want to produce the best performance I possibly can.”
At the other end of the experience spectrum, Willmott is preparing for her third Commonwealth Games, having previously competed in 2010 and 2014. The anticipation, however, is something that does not go away.
She said: ““I’m really excited to get out to the Gold Coast, to be in Australia, and to compete in the Commonwealth Games.
“I have competed at one in Delhi and one in Glasgow, but I think that the atmosphere on the Gold Coast will be incredible.”
In addition to the current crop of Stirling stars embarking on their Commonwealth Games journey, two university alumni will also be competing for Team Scotland when competition gets underway next month.
Grant Sheldon and Marc Austin will both be part of the Scottish triathlon team aiming for the podium, with both men having departed for Australia earlier this month.
Team Scotland chef de mission Jon Doig praised the contribution of university athletes to previous Commonwealth triumphs and underlined his hopes for more success in the weeks to come.
He said: “The university has provided a strong core of successful athletes at past Games and we look forward to the 2018 generation continuing this proud record.
“Being based at the university, we at Commonwealth Games Scotland see just how hard the athletes and wider university community are working to deliver results that will make the country proud in April.”
The action gets underway on the Gold Coast on April 4, with the closing ceremony on April 15.