Athletics: Baillie's run a tribute to lost talent

Britain's European junior champion faces an emotional day in his home city of Glasgow.

CHRIS BAILLIE has run down the home straight of Glasgow's Scotstoun Stadium thousands of times in training. It is as if all those practice runs were geared towards today, when the 18-year-old makes his senior international debut, in the 110 metres hurdles for Great Britain against the United States. It would be totally understandable if Baillie has a tear in his eye as he sprints across the finishing line.

This has been the summer when the real context of sport, as measured against life, has been amply demonstrated. The dark, Glaswegian humour of Bill Shankly - the man who once said that football wasn't a matter of life or death, it was more important than that - has run out of laughs.

When Ludmila Engqvist won "only" the bronze medal in the 100m hurdles at the World Championships last weekend, it was not regarded as a "tragedy" or a "disaster", the usual cliches which accompany sporting defeat. It was, for once, just a race. The Swedish Olympic gold medallist's most important contest this year has been against breast cancer. The bronze in Seville was rightly seen as a remarkable celebration of Engqvist's life.

And today's men's sprint hurdles race at the CGU Challenge will be as much a tribute to a lost talent as it will be a celebration of Colin Jackson's world title, or of the European junior title won by Chris Baillie.

The British athletics team has spent the whole summer first in a state of shock, then of mourning for the death of one of their promising young team-mates, Ross Baillie. Tipped by Jackson, his training partner, to be his natural successor as Britain's leading high hurdler, Ross Baillie was only 21 when he died in June after a severe allergic reaction to peanuts in a lunchtime chicken sandwich. Black ribbons have been worn on British vests ever since.

Ross was Chris Baillie's older brother. That Baillie has continued to race at all this summer, let alone go on to win the European Junior Championships in Riga, Latvia, last month, is an achievement of some fortitude.

In the midst of this true tragedy, Chris was sitting for his Scottish Highers exams as well as building up for his first important international championship, a combination which, in itself, has proved more than enough of a challenge for many promising youngsters. But Chris won his gold medal and has now left Clydebank High School with a B and C in Maths and English respectively. He has not yet made any plans for his further education. "I'm going to take next year out," he said on Thursday, "to concentrate on my athletics, aiming at the World Junior Championships."

Those that know Chris, or who saw him competing in Riga, describe him as a quiet, shy teenager. To win the European Junior gold, though, Baillie showed himself to be a fighter, too. Leading into the last barrier, the Scot clipped the top of it, lost his balance, and had a desperate sprint for the line.

The photo-finish equipment could not split Baillie and the Spaniard, Felipe Vivancos. Both were credited with 13.92sec and both were awarded a gold medal. Baillie had achieved what neither his older brother, nor Jackson, the world record-holder and twice world champion, had managed.

The report of the race in Athletics Weekly spoke of Baillie's anger with himself for a less-than-perfect performance. "I hit the second hurdle hard and made it difficult for myself," Baillie said. "I thought that if I could get out well and run a clean race then I'd win easily. I'm angry with myself really. But I won, which is the main thing." There were no effusive tributes to his older brother, no tears. According to one reporter in Riga, "When we asked about Ross, he said, `I wasn't really thinking about it. I just blocked it out'. He seemed to think it was a daft question to ask."

Bob Summerville, who had coached both Baillie boys at their club, Victoria Park Harriers, was more ready to talk of the additional pressures faced by Chris. "My first thought on hearing the result," Summerville said, "was of Chris, then of his mum and dad.

"We knew Chris had a gold medal chance, but under the circumstances this summer, it put a lot of pressure on him. It's a cliche, but Chris has come of age in the last few months."

Originally, Baillie was to have run in today's race as a guest, but injuries to Andy Tulloch and then Damien Greaves have seen him promoted to his first senior British vest. He will line up alongside Jackson and the American bronze medallist from Seville, Duaine Ross.

"I went training with both of them in Athens earlier this summer," Chris said, "so I've had a bit of experience running alongside them. They taught me small bits about the start and told me how I was hurdling. But it will be quite different in a race." And more difficult, no doubt, because also training with them in Athens earlier this year was Ross Baillie. Today's race is certain to be redolent of memories for the youngster.

"I'm trying to put everything out of my mind," he said, "trying to concentrate on my own race and nothing else. I'm OK with it all if I put everything out of my head before I run, then I can cope with it."

Coping with the grief is something that has been nearly impossible for Jackson this summer. After Ross's death, Jackson moved out of the flat that they shared in Bath, he stopped training for several weeks in mid- season, and he nearly quit the sport altogether. "I'm still not over it," Jackson, his second World Championship gold medal in his hand, said in Seville last week. "We were like a family together. Ross's death affected every aspect of our lives. Nothing's been the same since."

Tears tracked down Jackson's face after his golden run in Seville, tears of sorrow mingling with tears of joy. For Chris Baillie, the memories may be the biggest hurdle facing him today.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Health & Social CareTeacher

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Health & Social Care T...

RE Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Temporary Teacher of RE require...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: PSHE Teacher required in Devon - Star...

SEN Teacher (Primary)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Primary Teacher required Devon

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice