No spoken exclamations or gushing and no uttered consternation or chiding in Scotland would be complete without the delightfully emphasised adjective ‘wee’ for little Scots – mostly tiny, though not always young. Angus war veteran Andy Coogan, 97, could call his great-grand-nephew, the great Sir Chris Hoy, wee.
You need to hear them say it, to believe the glee when they talk of their many ‘wees’. And so it was that wee Erraid Davies, a 13-year-old from Shetland islands – a tiny community with two schools that has routinely produced great writers and poets – ended up inching the whole of Scotland towards their all-time medal-count high at their home Commonwealth Games.
They’re fourth as of mid-Wednesday with 39 medals, six more than the Edinburgh count.
The Para-sport SB9 final breaststroke swimmer in 100m won Scotland its 33rd overall medal, helping equal their best pickings from the last home Games at Edinburgh in 1986. The home nation had started with modest expectations of bettering Edinburgh, but with five more days to go, that number might be way higher and help them hold onto the third position.
Reaching 33 though could not have been more rousing. “Her face lit up the whole of Tollcross when she knew she’d won bronze. She couldn’t stop smiling,” said Graham Worral, Scotland’s swimming high performance director of the Monday night magic.
Suffering from Perthes disease that debilitates her hip and mobility, Davies won bronze behind Paralympic champ and world para-games champion medallist Sophie Pascoe – herself a single-leg amputee – and if that wasn’t enough charmed the audience by confessing that she’d kept the fact that she’d be spending her summers at the Commonwealth Games a secret from her school-mates at Brae for she didn’t know how to phrase it.
But Tollcross, Glasgow’s most intimately warm venue serving hot fresh scones, also home-pool to a few swimmers who’ve grown up in the neighbourhood, was the scene of some emotional moments this last week, as swimming alongside Judo has pushed Scotland’s medal tally dramatically. “It’s not that we expected it. Though we hoped, swimming would do well,” says Worral, adding, “we’re delighted that Scottish swimmers have stepped up to the occasion, and are not scared to take on the likes of Australia.”
The Aussies are intimidating sharks in any water-body, but in a pool at the Commonwealth they carry an aura that can drown anyone daring to line up in adjacent lanes. In his own grudgingly respectful way, an Australian supporter remarked, “They’re lucky if they win 1, but 3 gold is amazing!” forgetting that Melbourne had fetched them 14, including 6 gold. Women’s swimmer Caitlin McClatchey was the big star at Melbourne, and has happily handed over the baton to Hannah Miley.
“19 Scottish national records have been broken and Erraid showed great maturity in handling the Games experience,” the pool-professor added.
Led by the darling of the crowds Hannah Miley and Ross Murdoch, swimming has contributed 9 medals to the tally. Home expectations have hardly seemed like pressure. “We think it’s exciting to swim in front of friends, and Tollcross has seen a lot of athletes’ friends and families tear up watching their boys and girls claim medals,” he adds.
The first couple of gold medals came on the first day of competition, and ever since, cameras have parked themselves for the big tub splash that the Scots are enjoying this summer.
However, what has amazed everyone at these Games is the staggering 13 medals in judo (including 6 gold) – the same as England incidentally. “To be honest, we don’t know much about judo, though it’s very popular in Scotland for self-defense and fitness. But judo’s taken us by a massive surprise,” said spectator at Tollcross Loren, 23, who had jetted to judo and back the first week.
Medals all around
Perhaps, the 100kg judoka Euan Burton carrying the Scottish flag at the opening ceremony was a sign of things to come, as he picked gold over the weekend. “It’s an honour, I just hope I don’t drop the flag,” he’d said sheepishy.
Cycling’s brought its fair share, though it was another para-athlete Libby Clegg who scorched the Hampden Park track the same night as Erraid, winning the Women’s 100 metre (T12), led by guide Mikhail Huggins. If Tollcross was cheering lustily, Hampden gave Libby, who suffers from a deteriorating eye condition called Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy, the wings to fly across the track.
Saltire-waving is at an all-time high, though there’ll be a lot of the flag even past the Games as Scotland goes into its independence referendum next month. “But right now we want to celebrate clean competing,” says Catherine Mosley, a local, who is glad no politics has hijacked the Games.
England has been cheered second only to Scotland (it’s predicted that 7 lac people will leave if Scotland opts for a Yes in the latest alarming, if not alaramist poll), and on Sunday, Wales who went down to Australia in Rugby 7s narrowly, got some sympathetic lamenting from the Scots, who’ve proudly been part of Team GB.
When the sun’s out and the sky’s blue, two fighter jets start from two eastern ends of the city and cross each other with the trail leaving behind a Saltire in the sky. Weightlifter Georgina Black couldn’t pick a medal, but left the SECC hall grimacing and grunting with her every lift, the barbells dangling precariously above her blue-glazed short crop of hair, with a trimmer razing a cross over her ears, and Glasgow’s Games venues are filled with the favourite airs – Sweet Caroline and 500 Miles for you. To borrow from Shetlands famous poet Hugh MacDiarmid and babble around with it, the fighting spirit of wee Erraid Davies is lighting up this city.