STEPH Twell has been on quite a journey since she burst into the public’s consciousness by qualifying for Team GB for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 as an 18-year-old. She then followed that up by winning bronze in the 1500m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
In the intervening decade though, she has battled severe injury, including an ankle fracture and subsequent stress fracture that ended her hopes of competing at London 2012 before more injury issues severely hampered her chances of making any real impact when she competed at Glasgow 2014.
However, Twell is renowned in athletics circles for her resilience and over the past two years, she has shown her durability by making it to the Olympic Games in Rio as well as the World Championships in London last summer. Her resurgence continues, with her being named last week as one of Team Scotland’s 25-strong track and field squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
The obstacles Twell has overcome since breaking into the senior team have ensured that she has grown and matured as both an athlete and a person, although she admits she can’t quite believe that she has racked up quite as many major championships appearances as she has.
“I’ve been at 12 Championships – the first ones are clear in my memory, the middle ones are a bit of a blur but I can remember the most recent ones well,” she said. “You go through the process as a junior of everything being unknown and that naivety can help you achieve success but it’s good because I know what to expect now.”
While Twell has a wealth of experience, she has not lost that youthful exuberance that comes with being selected for a major championship team. Much of that excitement is due to the fact that she is part of a Scottish team which is stronger than it has ever been, sending record contingents to both the Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Championships.
That internal competition is, believes Twell, a huge positive and she is confident it will stand her and her compatriots in good stead when they reach Australia in April.
“I’m buzzing about it,” she said. “It’s another away Games and while Glasgow 2014 will be hard to beat, this will be quite a small team and I think the fact we’re away from home means that the support we’ll have for each other will be even greater. We’re an experienced team and I think that will help push our performances on even more. I made sure I was at the team announcement – I want to be part of the momentum because that carries you through. We’re all training independently so to get to chat to my team-mates about how things are going and what everyone’s plans are is nice because you follow everyone else on their journey so that when you are at the Champs, you feel like you’ve been there the whole way with each other. It’s about sharing and celebrating each other’s success.”
Twell is not planning on going to Gold Coast merely for the experience though. She will compete in both the 5000m and the 1500m – although an offer to be a part of the 4x400m team has been politely declined by management – and she knows that at her best, a place on the podium is a real possibility. With star performer Laura Muir opting to miss the Games to allow her to prepare for her final veterinary exams, Twell, as one of the elder statesmen of the team, has a degree of responsibility but that is a role that she is relishing. And with her compatriot Eilish McColgan one of her direct competitors for silverware in the 5000m, she is using the strength-in-depth of Scottish athletics as a real motivator.
“It’s a real shame that Laura’s not going to be there. I’m gutted about that,” said Twell. “I feel like we can pull each other on. You know that you’re all going for the same goal and so we’re all pushing towards that so I’m not looking at other countries in Africa doing these great things, I’m looking at other Scots.”
Having spent the past few years as a teacher, Twell has now become a full-time athlete to concentrate fully on her goal of peaking in Gold Coast. And this is one area in which her experience ensures that she knows exactly what to do over the next few months.
“This Commonwealth Games, my third one, will be so special and hopefully I’m in a better place and in better shape than ever before,” she said. “It’s so satisfying to be where I want to be right now. I’m happy and I’m aiming to stay healthy and if I can, I’ll be able to produce my best performance in Gold Coast.”
Source : HeraldScotland