TEENAGE hurdles star Hayley McLean is proud to be going to the Commonwealth Games.
The 19-year-old has been selected to represent England in the 400m hurdles at the Games in Glasgow next month – and she still can’t quite believe it.
“It’s all a bit surreal,” said McLean. “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 several weeks now 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 would have worked it out because I was saying ‘no, I hadn’t heard anything’ but, at the same time, was giving it away by having the biggest smile on my face!”
Of course, 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 and 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 Championships, win gold at last year’s European Junior Championships and also, in 2011, win a silver medal 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 athlete like swimmers and gymnasts. That felt big, so this is going to be massive!
“It’s had 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.
“When we (McLean and her coach Steve Mitchell) set the Commonwealth Games as a target at the end of the last year, it was just a target, we weren’t sure how possible it was and we weren’t really saying it publically. The main aim for the season was to get under 57 seconds (McLean ran 56.50s in Belgium last month). To actually achieve that was a dream and to now get selection too, it’s amazing.
“I feel like a little girl again I’m so excited.”
If McLean took a little while to get her head around the performance, it was watching potential opponents in Glasgow compete in the Diamond League on TV that made it all hit home.
She said: “I was watching the top Jamaicans and (Scotland’s) Elidh Child racing and it was weird to think I will be lining up alongside them at the Commonwealth Games. It was quite emotional.
“I can’t wait for it to start. It’s going to be nice going into a championships with the pressure off a bit. Last year I went to the European Junior Championships as the number one ranked athlete in Europe so the pressure was on me. This year, I can just be happy and go out and enjoy it.”