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Past Times

From young to gold: Dundee star Eilish McColgan’s rise in pictures

Eilish has captured the hearts of the nation with her exploits on the track. reports.
Kate Brown
A young Eilish with mum Liz and dad Peter.
A young Eilish with mum Liz and dad Peter.

Dundee’s Eilish McColgan captured the hearts of the nation with her stunning 10,000m Commonwealth Games gold medal triumph.

In one of the most memorable moments of Birmingham 2022, the 33-year-old clinched her first major title before going on to take silver in the 5,000m just days later.

Eight months on, she shattered Paula Radcliffe’s British 10,000m record.

And a new BBC documentary gives a behind-the-scenes look at her battles with injuries, pressures associated with her name and her relationship with mum Liz.

Inspired by her dedication and perseverance, we searched through the DC Thomson archives to build a visual timeline of her life and career so far.

This is Eilish’s journey from young to gold…

Toddler in Tokyo

Liz, Eilish and Peter.
Liz, Eilish and Peter.

Eilish was born in Dundee in 1990 to international athletes Liz and Peter McColgan.

Less than a year later, in 1991, Liz celebrated her own gold-medal victory, winning the 10,000m at the World Championships in Tokyo.

Last year Eilish said: “Tokyo is a city that’s close to my family’s hearts because that’s where my mum won the World Championship in 1991.

“I was only born November 1990, so it was less than a year after I was born and I don’t remember it, but I was out there with my mum.”

London calling

Eilish and Liz are pictured above after the 1997 London Marathon, where mum finished second.

Posting this poignant image on Instagram two years ago to mark Mother’s Day, Eilish wrote: “First time seeing this photo – my mum wasn’t happy coming 2nd at the London Marathon, so decided to use her trophy as a hat for me!🤷🏼‍♀️😂!”

Teenage dreams

Liz and Eilish in 2003.
Liz and Eilish in 2003.

Mother and daughter enjoyed racing together when Eilish was growing up.

The above image, from December 2003, shows them enjoying a great afternoon at the 10th Spar European Cross Country Championships.

“Growing up, my parents sheltered me a bit from the fact they were professional athletes,” said the two-time Olympian in 2020.

“They wanted to ensure that I got into the sport for the right reasons.

“I had no real awareness of what my mum had achieved or even that my dad (Peter McColgan) was a professional athlete.

“I think I assumed that everyone’s parents were always out running.

“I was confused when other kids crowded around my mum and asked for autographs.

“She never had the medals out on display in the house and we never watched her races back on video.

“It was from me that I came into running, rather than them.”

Making her mark

Eilish going for glory.
Eilish going for glory.

When she wasn’t busy attending Dundee High School, Eilish continued to race and could often be spotted running laps around Camperdown Park.

Weekends at Camperdown set her in good stead to win her first competition, back in 2006.

Just 15, Eilish won a silver medal at the Scottish Schools Championships in the 1,500m.

Flying the flag

Liz and Eilish McColgan in 2007.
Liz and Eilish McColgan in 2007.

One medal wasn’t enough!

The same year Eilish won a bronze medal at the International Under-17s Schools Championships.

Then, in 2007, she came fifth in the Scottish Senior Championships 1,500 metres.

And 2007 was a busy year for Eilish. When she wasn’t winning medals, she was busy promoting that year’s Great Scottish Run in Glasgow (above).

Early setbacks

A teenage Eilish in action.
A teenage Eilish in action.

At the 2008 Scottish Indoor Championships, Eilish won a bronze medal in the 1,500 metres.

But it wasn’t all wins.

She was selected for the Commonwealth Youth Games in India that year but was unable to attend due to a major knee injury, which took her a year-and-a-half to recover from.

The Dundonian also missed the 2011 World Championships in South Korea after breaking her foot at a Diamond League event in London.

A Brit special…

Representing Team GB.
Representing Team GB.

Eilish made her senior debut for Great Britain at the 2011 European Team Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.

Despite the challenge of competing in an event she’d never run before – the 3,000m – Eilish still finished ninth.

She also achieved a personal best in the race.

London calling – again…

The Scot pictured ahead of London 2012.
The Scot pictured ahead of London 2012.

Eilish achieved Olympic qualification in 2012.

She won the British trials in under 10 minutes, and was the only athlete to finish in that time.

Eilish was also the only British athlete to have achieved the ‘A’ qualifying standard that year.

Last year she told the official Olympics website that running on the big stage, this time in the 3,000m steeplechase, had been a huge change for her.

She said: “I think one of my last races was the Scottish University Championships with about five people in the stands.

“And then all of a sudden here I was in London on the start line of an Olympic Games.”

Glasgow 2014

Eilish at Hampden.
Eilish at Hampden.

Eilish was one of the first to test out the new Hampden track ahead of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, where she competed in the steeplechase.

She was joined by pupils from Mount Florida Primary School, who gave her a run for her money.

A year earlier, Eilish had graduated with a maths and accountancy degree from Dundee University.

She later said: “It’s no secret I enjoyed university life.

“I probably partied more and harder than I should as an athlete. But I don’t really regret it.

“I got it out my system so to speak. I had some great times, made some great memories, made some not so great memories.

“I still enjoyed the physical part of training – even turning up with the hangover I would push myself.

“But when I made the decision at the start of 2011, I stopped partying right away and trained harder.

“I went from someone who was out drinking five nights a week, not sleeping and eating a kebab at 4am to someone who was teetotal and didn’t go out.

“Mum wasn’t happy with my lifestyle when I was a student but she didn’t step in.

“She accepted that if I was serious about running I would come back to it. But she was always there, always at the track.

“So the decision, when it was taken, to come back to the sport was taken by me.

“And when I did commit myself fully, I started to have a far greater appreciation of the work and sacrifices she had put in to be one of the best athletes in the world.”

Going long-distance

Eilish and Michael Rimmer.
Eilish and Michael Rimmer.

Eilish met partner Michael Rimmer in 2014.

The couple share many interests – including running! Michael, from Southport, is a former middle-distance athlete.

He also coaches Eilish, alongside her mum Liz, who name-checked Michael in her interview with the BBC on Wednesday night.

Olympic heartbreak

Eilish and Team GB teammate Jessica Judd.
Eilish and Team GB teammate Jessica Judd.
Eilish after the final in Rio in 2016.
Eilish after the final in Rio in 2016.

At the Tokyo games last year, she failed to qualify for the 5,000m final.

Eilish – who finished 13th in Rio five years earlier – “It was a dream season up until today and today was obviously so far off where I was.

“It’s 40 seconds slower than my best this year, so obviously I’m disappointed.”

She added: “Literally, from when the gun went to the last 600, I was just getting clipped all the time.

“I have to be more aware because I’m so tall – my legs clip everyone’s hands – but it just kept happening.

“It is partly my fault for being in the wrong position, but I tried to speak to them and say ‘stop clipping me’. I thought I was going to go down and panicked.

“I tried to keep it going, but I just had nothing – I don’t know if just mentally I just switched off because I had lost that bit of ground.”

Eclipsing Paula

Fierce competition for Eilish.
Fierce competition for Eilish.

Eilish finished second in the Women’s Elite Race during the 2021 Great North Run.

It was a successful year for the Dundee runner.

She also beat Paula Radcliffe’s 17-year-old record in the British 5,000m, with a time of 14:28.55.

Her glory night

On the podium.
On the podium.

Of course, it all led to THAT night in Birmingham.

Eilish lit up the Alexander Stadium, winning gold before a tearful appearance on the podium as a spine-tingling rendition of Flower of Scotland played.

She said: “On that last lap the crowd was vibrating through my whole body. I wanted it so badly.

“It is just so special that it’s here in the UK. This is my third Commonwealth Games and my fourth event.

“I’ve finally found an event! To win it tonight is just incredible.

“My family know the ups and downs and how difficult the journey is.”

Sharing success with mum Liz

A delighted Eilish and Liz.
A delighted Eilish and Liz.

Eilish finished the day how she began her sporting career – side by side with her mum.

Liz, 58, had flown in from her base in Qatar to watch her girl’s career-defining moment and was bursting with pride in the aftermath.

She said: “For me, as a mother, to witness your daughter winning is amazing and to win it in the same event that I won it in.

“She’s just run the race that I always knew she was capable of running.

“It was amazing to watch, it was very nerve-wracking to watch.

“It has been a long time coming and she put it together tonight, and I’m just really, really pleased because I know the hard work that she does. And her support team.

“Her dad’s here tonight. Uncles, people here that don’t normally get to watch her running and it’s just fantastic.”

Just a day earlier, Eilish revealed her plan to get Tayside kids involved in athletics and ensure none are frozen out by cost.

It was an opportunity…and it changed her life.”

It’s a proposal inspired by mum Liz’s path to glory.

Eilish said: “My mum used to run to the track.

“She couldn’t get the bus down or get a car or lift because my gran and grandad couldn’t offer that.

“My mum’s coach, Harry Bennett, and an uncle of my mum’s and some people in the community, they effectively paid for a one-way flight for my mum to go on scholarship to the States.

“She didn’t have a clue where she was going or what she was doing.

“But it was an opportunity and people funded it and it changed her life.”