Eilidh Child

8th June 2012 at 01:00
A beloved primary teacher cheered the 400m hurdler on throughout her school years

George Wilson was my headteacher at primary school. He was one of these people who was really into what you were doing, who would come to class quite a lot.

I always remember him because he was big on my athletics and would come to events when I was representing the school. That gave me a boost because I knew that, as well as my family, I had the school behind me. I think he was head of the bowls club and there was one time he missed an important competition or meeting, because he wanted to watch me race.

When we left school we had a prizegiving. Mr Wilson gave me this really nice Nike schoolbag. He basically said: "There's not an award for sporting achievements, but we wanted to show you how much you've done for the school." It meant a lot; it's always stuck with me. Even after I left primary school, he knew my dad - who was the community policeman - quite well and would always ask how I was getting on.

Mr Wilson had a great sense of humour, he was quite a character. We went to a theme park during a Primary 7 trip to Holland and Belgium. The deputy head, Mr Dobbin, set up a prank. If you stood on the bridge while a water ride was going on, you got absolutely soaked. Mr Dobbin asked Mr Wilson to go and watch the kids. He was the only one who didn't know what was coming. We left him standing there and he got absolutely soaked. But he took it so well - he found it so funny.

You know when you are in primary school and teachers are quite scary authority figures? He just had that more normal, human side to him. You felt you could go and chat to him - he was your friend as well as your headteacher.

I learned from him just to keep following my sport. He said to me before I left, "I look forward to seeing you at the Olympics." I'm at that point now where I could make the Olympics. I have gone to world championships, Commonwealth Games, but there is something that bit different about being able to call yourself an Olympian.

It was in Primary 6 and 7 that I really started to do well. I ran at the Scottish schools cross-country championships and won. I won the Scottish schools swimming championships, too. Sport was what I thrived on at school, although I worked hard and got my grades.

Now I'm a teacher myself. When I came back to school with a Commonwealth Games medal in my hand, the kids were really curious. They like to know how often I train, what sort of training I do. They understand now about the season and things like peaking. Sometimes they look at sports stars and think they are superhuman, but they see me day to day and I'm just a normal person, I have just come from where they have come from - I think that makes things seem a bit more achievable.

I have taken on board Mr Wilson's encouragement for kids to thrive on what they are good at, whether it's sport or something else. It's about keeping them keen and showing your support, that you are proud of what they have done, that you really want them to do well - that positive attitude.

A lot of kids just want to be heard sometimes, they just want someone to listen to them and support them. And I can say that if you keep setting little goals and targets, one day you might reach a really big goal.

It's a shame, because I don't think Mr Wilson realised how much influence he had on people. When he passed away I went to his funeral. There was a huge turnout.

Eilidh Child will compete in the Olympic trials for the British athletics team at the end of June. She was talking to Henry Hepburn.


Born: Perth, 1987

Education: Kinross Primary; Kinross High; studied PE at the University of Edinburgh

Career: Teacher at Perth Grammar, currently on a sabbatical; 400m hurdles silver medallist for Scotland in 2010 Commonwealth Games, and finalist in 2010 European Championships.

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