WE'VE STRUCK GOLD BEFORE GAMES HAVE EVEN STARTED; Beijing 2008 THE 29TH OLYMPICS ... 31 Scots Competitors Is Huge Success Story Says Mike
Byline: GARY RALSTON IN BEIJING
MIKE WHITTINGHAM spent his athletics career setting the pace for Seb Coe and now he's leading the way for Scottish success at the Olympics.
The executive director of the Scottish Institute of Sport heads up an organisation dedicated to helping the elite in their determined drive towards gold and glory.
Whittingham, a former 400 metres hurdler, reckons we already have plenty to cheer after 31 Scots qualified for Beijing as part of a 317-strong UK team.
Of those Scots, the SIS have bracketed 14 as being in the "medal zone", with the aim of going at least one better than our haul of two golds and two silvers as part of Team GB four years ago in Athens.
The Olympics begin today with a dazzling opening ceremony at the Bird's Nest, a stunning venue of lattice steelwork that manages to make even the Forth Bridge resemble something constructed in his spare time by a Meccano enthusiast.
The Scots will hit the pool with a splash tomorrow with five swimmers, including Commonwealth gold medallists Caitlin McClatchey and David Carry, involved.
Daniel Keatings, Corby-born but Caledonian-hearted, will also be in action as he becomes the first Scottish gymnast to appear at an Olympic Games.
Over the course of the next two-and-a-half weeks athletes such as Andy and Jamie Murray, Katherine Grainger, Campbell Walsh and Chris Hoy will be doing their best to add a touch of tartan to British sporting success.
Whittingham hopes the influence of the Institute, based at the University of Stirling, will help them reach their targets, just as he did acting as pacemaker for Coe during the glory days of middle-distance running in the early 80s.
He said: "The number of Scots competing means it's already a success story for us before the games have even begun.
"We're happy to be judged on the number of Scots there. This is performance sport, we're measured on that and it's a culmination of a decade of hard work since the Institute was started 10 years ago.
"It's also pleasing that of the 31 Scots involved we've established 14 are in with amedal chance.
"These are not athletes who have scraped in but are part of an elite group competing at the highest level.
"If things go well we'd hope for a 50 per cent conversion rate to medals. The total GB target is 35 and if we're providing 10 per cent of athletes we should aspire to between three and five.
"Anything above four would be a success as it would better our Athens tally." It's no surprise Scotland is providing most athletes in swimming and judo - 10 and three respectively - as it's in those sports the Institute has invested heavily on the back of recent successes. …