Zoey Clark will this morning become the first Aberdeen woman to compete in a track event at the Olympic Games for 69 years.
Quita Shivas ran in the 100m at the 1952 Helsinki Games, but no-one has matched that achievement since then.
Clark is in Japan as part of the Great Britain 4x400m squad, some of whom will compete in the heats of the mixed relay, which take place today.
The mixed relay, with two men and two women, is featuring on the Olympic programme for the first time.
However, Clark has experience of the event having competed in the mixed 4x400m at this year’s world relays in Poland, where Great Britain placed fifth behind winners Italy.
But with nine women and six men having been selected for the relay squads, competition for places has been fierce.
Team management need to consider how best to spread their resources as some athletes will have to prepare for the individual 400m races as well as the men’s and women’s relays.
Clark has, however, been named in the starting line-up for today’s heat and her coach, Eddie Mckenna, is confident she’ll be ready.
He said: “She has been training well and is in a very positive mood and will look forward to whatever comes her way.
“Everything has gone well since she got there and she’s enjoying the atmosphere even though it’s very different from the normal.”
In a corner of King’s College playing fields in Old Aberdeen, there is a tree and small plaque commemorating the life of the great north-east athlete Quita Shivas.
It’s a modest tribute to the immensely successful sprinter who was the first Aberdeen woman to represent Great Britain in a track and field event at the Olympic Games, competing in the 100m at Helsinki in 1952.
It was on the well-manicured grass at Kings that Shivas frequently trained and competed for Aberdeen University while studying to become a doctor. And it’s here that her ashes were scattered following her death, at the age of 87, in 2013.
Shivas was eliminated at the first-round stage in Helsinki, finishing third in her heat with a time of 12.5secs. Only the top two qualified for the semi-final, with the winner, Australia’s Shirley Strickland, who clocked 12.00, going on to take bronze in the final.
Aberdeen AAC’s Clark, who is a member of the British 4x400m relay squad in Tokyo at the moment, is the first Aberdonian since then to have earned an Olympic track call-up. She too has trained at Kings on occasion.
The Olympic cauldron is lit and the games are open!
Didn’t manage to be there in person but enjoyed getting dressed up in our opening ceremony kit and watching from our hotel. #Olympics #TeamGB #Athletics pic.twitter.com/gbVnwgxw08
— Zoey Clark (@_ZoeyClark) July 23, 2021
Shivas, who moved to London in 1951, joined the Spartan Ladies Athletics Club and worked in Hammersmith Hospital at the time of her Olympic selection and she retired soon after the Games to concentrate on her medical career.
However, she made her name as an athlete in her home town of Aberdeen.
She was the daughter of Andrew and Blanche Shivas. Andrew was a well-known Aberdeen chartered accountant, who also made his name as a part-time ventriloquist and magician. He was a founder member of the Aberdeen Magical Society.
Quita attended Aberdeen High School for Girls before taking a job in Aberdeen University’s pathology department before deciding to study medicine.
Her name first appeared in the Press & Journal in the summer of 1940 when she won a series of events at her school sports at Hazlehead.
However, her athletics career really blossomed at Aberdeen University, where she showed outstanding form in the 60m, 80m hurdles, 100 yards and 220 yards, winning numerous Scottish student titles and setting a host of national records.
She finished second in the 200m at the 1947 Paris World Student Games and was touted as a possible choice for the 1948 Olympic Games, although she never quite made it on that occasion.
Then, in 1950, she struck gold in the 60m at the WAAA championships at London’s White City. Further honours came along at the 1951 World Student Games in Luxembourg where she won the 100m and took bronze in the 80m hurdles.
Her legacy continues through the Quita Shivas Athletics Scholarship established by her daughter Judith. The aim of the award is to inspire and assist future Aberdeen students to fulfill their potential at the highest level in athletics.
Keith returns to action at Scotstoun
Meanwhile, Megan Keith (Inverness Harriers) is expected to compete in the 1500m or 5,000m at this evening’s Glasgow Milers meet at Scotstoun stadium.
It will be the 19-year-old’s first track race since finishing fourth in the 3,000m at the European under-20 championships in Estonia earlier in the month.
Elsewhere, Great Britain international Andy Douglas is favourite to win the Ben Rinnes hill race at Dufftown tomorrow.
The Edinburgh-based Caithness athlete is also expected to challenge the record of 1hr 54min 02secs for the 22k course, which includes 1,500 metres of elevation gain.
That mark was set by Deeside’s Robbie Simpson 10 years ago, but Douglas has the pedigree to break it if conditions are favourable.
He is the reigning world cup mountain running race series title-holder and has been a regular Great Britain representative at world and European championships over the past seven or eight years.
Much may depend on how well he has recovered from his victory in Iceland’s Laugavegur 55k ultra trail marathon earlier in the month. It was his first ultra distance race and his time of 4:10:38 brought him home 22mins ahead of his closest challenger. It was the third fastest time in the history of the race.
Other contenders include RAF runner and England international Ben Livesey, who has recently relocated to the Moray area after a long spell based south of the border while, Andrew Barrington (Lochaber AC) and John Newsom (Inverness Harriers) should be among the front runners. US marathon runner Matt Williams could also feature strongly.
Women’s course record-holder and three-time previous winner Jill Stephen (Hunters Bog Trotters) won’t be competing on this occasion as she has taken over as race organiser from Graeme Bartlett, who has managed the event for the past 27 years ago.
Her clubmate Georgia Tindley, from Kingussie, is capable of testing the women’s record of 2:18:12, which Stephen set in 2018.
Monica Padilla (Highland Hill Runners) is among the others who should be contesting the other podium positions.