14 August 2012

Great Scot teamwork pushes up GB medal haul

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First Minister Alex Salmond dubbed them the “Scolympians” to celebrate Scottish success at the London Olympics. And there has been plenty of Olympic success for Scots to celebrate. Five million Scots make up 8% of the UK population, but there has been a massive Scottish contribution to almost one in five (13 out of 65) of the Team GB medal haul, showing that Scottish members of Team GB did very well at London 2012, says Sunder Katwala.

If the Scottish first minister were to win his 2014 referendum on independence this could be the last time that Scottish athletes compete alongside their English and Welsh team-mates in the Olympics.

But British Future’s analysis of the medal haul shows that raising the Saltire instead of the Union flag at Olympic medal ceremonies could make it more difficult to take medals home back to Scotland from Rio in 2016.

Just 5% of the Team GB medals won by Scots alone, with the individual gold medals won by Sir Chris Hoy on the track, by Andy Murray in defeating Roger Federer at Wimbledon, and Michael Jamieson’s swimming bronze.

Most of the Scottish medals were team affairs, involving team-mates from other parts of the United Kingdom, with eleven of the 14 Team GB Olympic medals won by Scottish athletes were won as part of team efforts involving athletes from England and Wales too.

An Anglo-Scottish-Welsh trio secured Sir Chris Hoy’s team sprint triumph, with English and Welsh teammates, Geraint Thomas from Wales and Dani King from Southampton,  while Scottish show-jumper Scott Brash won gold in a quartet with three English colleagues.  There were two Scottish members of the bronze medal winning women’s hockey team, along with one Welsh team-mate.

Three Anglo-Scottish pairings won medals in rowing, as did two Anglo-Scottish canoeist pairs, with Tim Baillie teaming up with Etienne Scott from Buckinghamshire, along with Anglo-Scottish teams in sailing, where Aberdeen’s Luke Patience teamed up in the 470 class to win silver with Stuart Bithell of Rochdale. In tennis, Andy Murray added a silver medal to his individual gold with popular Australian-born home counties girl Laura Robson in the mixed doubles.

The success of the first Team GB gold medallist, Heather Stanning, was celebrated and as a local success by Lossiemouth in Scotland and 700 miles away in Cornwall too. Stanning was born in Yeovil, in south-west England, and lived in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Hampshire before her family moved to Scotland when she was nine. She went to school at Gordonstoun and studied at Bath University and Sandhurst before becoming a Royal artillery officer. Her mother May said “We’re nomads, but Lossiemouth and Arisaig on the west coast have been anchor points in the kids’ life.” Stanning won gold alongside Penzance teacher Helen Glover. Scottish sports minister Shona Robinson said “I have no doubt that the people of her home town of Lossiemouth will be leading the nationwide celebrations of this brilliant victory”.

9 of the 12 Scots who won medals were state educated, with Chris Hoy, rower Heather Stanning and canoeist David Florence being privately educated.  Rowers Sophie Hosking and Katherine Grainger, showjumper Scott Brash, swimmer Michael Jamieson, sailor Luke Patience and canoeist Tim Baillie attended Scottish state schools, as did tennis champion Andy Murray. (Murray and Hoy won both individual and team medals).

Within the UK, Scottish athletes will get to compete as Scotland as they host the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, which is likely to be a proud international swansong for Sir Chris Hoy.

Whether Team GB will continue to benefit from Scottish sporting talent in future Olympic Games will be a decision for the Scottish voters in the forthcoming independence referendum.

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