What does it mean to be Scottish?
There are some – particularly in the footballing fraternity – who think only those born in Scotland have the right to wear the jersey. But being Scottish by virtue of birthright is pretty easy. Far harder, and perhaps harder to comprehend, is choosing to be Scottish. It is no guarantee of sporting success, after all. Plaudits then, to Ross Edgar who ironically might have achieved greater recognition during his career, had he chosen the colours of his country of birth rather than those of his father’s.
For these and other reasons, the burd has always had a wee soft spot for Mr Edgar. Diminutive, modest, yet a sportsman of the first class order, his success has been overshadowed by that of his much more famous and imposing cycling rivals and team mates, Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean. No one was more surprised than him to be voted overwhelmingly by his fellow team members as their choice to carry the Scotland flag in the opening ceremony for the Delhi Commonwealth Games. His response to the honour speaks volumes: “I never imagined I’d be the flag bearer. I never saw myself as someone who’d be chosen to do it. But it means more because it’s been voted for by my fellow athletes, so I’m really proud and I feel that I’ve done my family proud. They’ll be really happy for me.”
Yet, Ross’s achievements in themselves are outstanding. He was the first ever Scot to take a full set of Commonwealth medals – gold in the team sprint, silver in the individual sprint and bronze in the keirin – at the Melbourne Games in 2006. At the Beijing Olympics he took silver in the men’s keirin but it was his response to not being included in the gold winning sprint team, having been a stalwart in its preparations that showed the measure of the man. Hugely disappointed, he accepted that the team comes first and was there cheering them on. The dignified interview he gave at the time almost reduced the burd to tears.
It is his contribution to the team ethic – no one plays for the jersey more – and to British, and Scottish, cycling’s success that is perhaps most deserving of merit. And he has fought back to win a place in the British sprint team, despite the presence of many younger pretenders. He was rewarded with a bronze medal in the World Championships and a gold in the British Championships in 2010. In fact, his medal haul to date (in British and Scottish colours) amounts to an astonishing 4 bronzes, 5 silvers and 3 golds. He has every chance of winning more at these Commonwealth Games.
Ross Edgar is a remarkable athlete and a true sporting hero. We should be proud indeed that he chooses to be Scottish and that he will be our flag-bearer in Delhi.