WITH the Olympics now well underway, former 200m runner Sandra Seenan remembers the Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and reveals who she’ll be cheering on at London 2012.
“I WAS overwhelmed by the atmosphere. There were over 100,000 spectators there and going on the track to compete with the Scottish spectators in the stadium flying the flag and shouting on me really lifted my spirits no end ... it was a lovely feeling.”
Twenty-eight years ago that was how Sandra Whittaker (now Seenan) felt as she represented her country on the grandest stage of all.
But if that’s how she felt at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, imagine how Britain’s athletes must be feeling now as they compete in front of a home crowd in London.
Having won bronze at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, however, Sandra believes home support will be more of a help than a hindrance.
She said: “There is a bit of additional pressure, but I think that it lifts you to achieve more as you don’t want to let your home supporters down. It certainly helped me at the Edinburgh Games.
“The crowds at London 2012 will definitely lift the spirits and performances of the athletes and this will help them achieve the best they can.”
And with the action at the Games really heating up, for Sandra it brings all those memories of ’84 flooding back.
Having won bronze two years previously at the Commonwealths in Brisbane, Sandra went to Los Angeles with high hopes but she was left with conflicting emotions.
In her heat she broke the Scottish record for the 200m, a time that still stands almost 30 years on, but missed out on a semi-final place by the narrowest of margins.
She recalled: “At the end of the race, the Italian girl and I both dropped our heads on the line and we were kept waiting for the result. I didn’t see a photo-finish and we both had exactly the same time.
“I was very upset – how could they determine the result when we both had the same time?
“What made it more upsetting was that none of the other British girls had managed to run as fast as I did, but they still got to the semi-final.
“I looked at the result and it was 22.98 seconds. I couldn’t believe I’d gone under 23 seconds, set a new Scottish record and still gone out.
“It broke my heart and I bubbled all the way back after the race.
“But LA was still a fantastic experience for me.
“I'm the only Scot in history to have run under 23 seconds and this record still stands today. I am so proud of that.”
And the Stewartfield woman admits now, at 49, she appreciates her achievement more than she ever did.
Sandra added: “I often say that at the time I took everything very much for granted. It was only years later that I thought what I actually achieved was great.
“I did really appreciate what I achieved at the time, but probably more so now.
“I had experience of competing in my first Commonwealth Games in 1982 (Brisbane) and also the first World Championships in 1983 (Helsinki), so going to the Olympic Games aged 21 in 1984 I knew what to expect and I knew the standard of athletes involved.
“My coach told me to treat every round like a final and to run my best. I actually did not feel the pressure of domestic competitions, where I was expected to win, I just went out there and did my best and was probably more relaxed and therefore ran the performance of my life.
“I have so many great memories. The Olympic village was a fantastic experience. There was such friendship, not only from the track and field athletes from other countries competing at the Games, but also athletes from other sports.”
Sandra retired from the sport in 1988 after injury ruled her out of the Games in Seoul, South Korea that year.
It was a decision taken to spend more time with her family – husband George (with whom she will celebrate 25 years of marriage next year) and sons Christopher, 21, and Stephen, 18.
Now Sandra, who works as a support manager for the NHS, looks forward to kicking back on the sofa and taking in the track and field events.
“Like a lot of people, I'm looking forward to seeing Usain Bolt in action,” she said.
“I love his character and spirit and he is such a class athlete.
“But I'm also looking forward to seeing Eilish McColgan and Lynsey Sharp, too, as they are not only our Scottish track hopefuls but are the daughters of two previous team mates (Liz McColgan and Cameron Sharp), so good luck to all of them.”