The Western Isles’ Golden Girl!

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“Two-time defending champion Eilidh Mackenzie hoping for gold for the third Natwest Island Games in a row,” bellowed the tannoy announcer.

The Bermudian announcer was speaking as the athletes took their place at the starting lines for the women’s 1500m.

But far from gushing with pride, the Western Isles wonderwoman, who did go on to win gold again with another incredible race, was wishing the announcer would belt up.

Any competitive race, especially those on an international stage, brings pressure but the pressure on a defending champion’s shoulders is even greater and Eilidh, surely one of the Western Isles greatest ever athletes, admits to feeling every single bit of it.

Added to the fact she had battled against a hip problem all week having even more pressure heaped on her by the announcer was the last thing she needed. Eilidh though has proved time and again her athletic mettle.

And just over four minutes later she had another gold gong hanging around her neck. Her THIRD successive 1500m gold medal success and her FOURTH successive gold medal winning Island Games – adding her 800m gold success from 2007.

“I just wanted him to shut-up,” she recalled. “I wasn’t feeling that confident as I felt awful before the race as I’d had bio-mechanical problems all week. Mairi (Macphail) had been helping me tremendously but my right hip was badly jammed. Looking back on the video of the race and I can see myself rocking and rolling all over the place.

“The first two laps were terrible but I picked up in the final two although people were wondering what I was doing in the third when I fell behind to fifth or sixth.

“I managed to catch up to the top two and I remember approaching the final bend thinking I had to find a burst of speed. I had to go very wide but I managed to keep going and I won it.”

In addition to taking a gold medal back across the Atlantic Eilidh’s hold luggage also had a bronze medal after she was part of the women’s 4x400m relay team (pictured below right).

“There was so much less pressure on us in the 400m relay as we had never had a team before and hadn’t even practised. But when we saw Jenny (McTaggart) flying round the track and keeping pace with the leaders we knew we were in with a shout.

“Kathryn (Offer) then did well before passing to Eve (Carrington) who kept us in contention before I took on the last lap. There was a runner in front of me, who was the same girl I had beaten in the 1500m, and I managed to get past her.

“I’ve watched the video back and it is terrifying to see just how close behind me she was. I had no idea how close she was so it is so lucky I didn’t slow down as it would have been awful to have missed out on a medal there. It might just be me but I am never aware how close or how far away other runners are behind me.”

Despite her double medal winning show in the blazing heat of Bermuda there is no respite for Eilidh who was straight back to competitive racing on home soil as she eyes her next big target – the Commonwealth Games.

“Some people don’t enjoy racing but I like it. On the line when the gun goes off everything changes. You forget any worries you had before. I enjoy everything about it especially the strategy side. I’m one of those who enjoy a big finish. It is important not to burn yourself out with too quick a start so you have nothing left for a big finish but at the same time you don’t want to get left behind. In the 1500m you don’t know what’s going on in the first two laps so you have to keep cool, go at a certain pace and not go too early. This only comes with practice.

“I’m still training and racing every weekend as I’m aiming to get my 1500m down to a reasonable time then work off that.

“I have done it in 4:28 but I want to bring it down to 4:20 then work hard to bring it down further. The Commonwealth time is around 4:10 and I don’t know if I can do that but I’m going to try.”

Having collected a remarkable haul of four Natwest Island Games gold medals which one is the most precious to the 24-year-old track titan?

“That’ll be the first one,” added Eilidh.

“It was really special as I’d never won at the Island Games and there was no pressure on me and I came out of nowhere to win it. “This year the feeling when I won was more relief to have managed to defend it.”