ATHLEICS: THURROCK athletes Hayley McLean and Amir Williamson are celebrating winning selection for the Commonwealth Games.
The pair are still on a high after being named in the England team to compete in the Games in Glasgow next month.
McLean, 19, from Stanford-le-Hope, will race in the 400m hurdles at Hampden Park while Williamson, from Linford, will compete in the hammer throw.
McLean said: “It’s all a bit surreal. I don’t think it has sunk in just yet but I’m so excited. I can’t wait for it to start now.”
The Stanford-le-Hope athlete has been bursting with excitement for weeks after learning the news. But she couldn’t tell a soul because the complete squad had not been finalised.
“It’s been tough keeping quiet,” laughed McLean. “I think most people who asked me should have worked it out because I was saying ‘no, I hadn’t heard anything’ but was giving it away by having the biggest smile on my face!”
McLean was able to share the good news with her family – not that they believed her at first.
“I got a call from the hurdles team manager and I thought it was a joke at first,” said McLean. “I was expecting to find out a day earlier and hadn’t heard anything so I was so disappointed.
“Then when the call came I was just in shock. I told my mum and she didn’t believe me either, she thought I was joking! It took quite a few hours for it to sink in.”
McLean has had an illustrious junior career that has seen her make the final of the World Youth Champs, win gold at last year’s European Junior Championships and also, in 2011, win silver at the Commonwealth Youth Games. So she has some idea of what to expect when she travels up to Glasgow next month.
“When I went to the Commonwealth Youth Games, it felt huge,” she said. “It was billed as a mini Olympics and we were together with other athletes like swimmers and gymnasts. That felt big, so this is going to be massive!
“It’s hard to process it all actually. It’s weird to think I will be there racing, attending the opening ceremony instead of watching it all on TV.”
Hammer thrower Williamson has had a long, hard battle to get to his first Commonwealth Games – but he never gave up.
The 27-year-old set his sights on a place in Glasgow ever since missing out on the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi four years ago.
But he has had to balance training with his full-time job as a firefighter based at East Greenwich, which is anything but a normal nine-to-five.
“It’s hard,” said Williamson. “I can have a 13-hour night shift, drive home in the morning, get my training kit and go on straight to training.
“It’s been my aim ever since I missed out on the last Commonwealths in Delhi. My nan passed away in the run-up to those Games which knocked me quite a bit but since then I’ve focused on this.
“It’s been a long, hard four years. But I have been working hard and enjoying the sport again. If I wasn’t enjoying it, there is no way I could still be doing it.
“And it shows, if you enjoy what you do, anything can happen.”
Williamson, a former GB junior international, admits selection for the Games was close to being “make or break” but now he is in the team he hopes it can be a stepping stone to bigger things.
“I didn’t want to spend a lifetime chasing but now I’ve made it I’m hoping it can be a springboard,” he said. “There’s the World Championships next year and the Olympics the year after that.” Williamson thanked previous coaches Mike Davies and Paul Head.