Rio 2016: Scot Andrew Butchart on track for big impact in 5000m

Andrew Butchart
Andrew Butchart will compete in the 5,000m in Brazil

As Scotland's Andrew Butchart prepares to board the plane for the Rio Olympics, the Dunblane distance runner enjoyed a final training session with his coach Derek Easton and his training group at Central Athletic Club at the University of Stirling.

Rhona McLeod braved the wind and rain of a chilly summer's night to discover that Team GB's rising talent firmly believes home is best.

Picture the scene, a track swarming with athletes - from 10 years old to guys in their 70s - in the pouring rain.

This is the set-up favoured by a 24-year-old Olympian and the next big thing in British distance running.

Andrew Butchart is a loyal and enthusiastic member of Central AC and has learned his trade under the steady guidance of club coach Derek Easton.

As success arrived, Butchart stayed put, and remains firmly grounded by his Stirlingshire roots.

"This is just a normal training night for me - it happens Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday," he explains.

"In my coach's group there are probably about 50 guys aged from 14-75, so that's a widespread group of athletes."

'If it's not broken don't fix it'

This is not the environment or coaching set-up favoured by world class athletes.

Surely a smaller squad, better weather or higher altitude would be a more likely environment for an Olympian?

"If it's not broken, don't fix it," laughs Butchart.

"I've done this since I was 17 years old and I've managed to get this far with this group, so I'm not going to change it if it's working well.

Andrew Butchart
Butchart won his event at the British Championships

"It's a good atmosphere and the guys I train with, we have good banter.

"It works well - we know that. I am happy and they are happy."

So well that in the last year Butchart has broken Scottish records at 5,000m and 3,000m.

He also won at the British Championships to claim his spot for Rio, and at the London Anniversary Games kicked for home in a remarkable final kilometre to finish second behind Mo Farah in a world-class field.

The Anniversary Games performance has especially encouraged his coach Easton for Butchart's prospects in Rio.

"The target was to make the final, but after the Anniversary Games I will be very disappointed if he doesn't make the final and I don't see any reasons why he can't be right up there," says Easton.

"He beat world-class people in London. The final is likely to be quite tactical and he is actually very good in these types of situations so I am hugely encouraged."

On course for 'world class'

Easton has coached Butchart for seven years and says his progress has been "outstanding".

"He's gone from being a top Scottish runner, to a top British runner, in fact he is progressing to become a world-class athlete, which is thrilling for us all," he adds.

So does Easton concede that his squad of 50, and the Scottish wind and rain, may not be the most conducive for producing world beaters?

"Not in the slightest," is the coach's reply.

Mo Farah
Butchart finished second to Farah at the Anniversary Games

"I have been involved in the sport for 45 years and I have been involved with Olympic athletes in the past and through that time I have learned a lot and I am absolutely convinced he is in the right place doing the right stuff.

"It sounds a bit cheesy and corny to say we are like a big family but that's exactly what we are.

"And I am sure he can continue to improve as he is still at an early level for a senior - I am sure he has another three, four, five years of improvement to come, which is quite exciting as well.

"He's got a superb attitude to competition, he thoroughly enjoys it and he's not scared of getting beaten, which has been one of his strengths.

"He's not scared of competing against athletes of the highest standard and I think that's part of the reason he has progressed so quickly.

"He just focuses on his own performance rather than worrying what the competition are going to do on the day and I think that's the right frame of mind to be in."

Inspiration from the Murrays

Andy and Jamie Murray
Tennis players Andy and Jamie Murray will also be part of Team GB in Rio

Butchart says fellow Dunblane Olympians Andy and Jamie Murray have been hugely motivating, and he knows the brothers well.

There are family ties, as Butchart's girlfriend, Caitlin, is the daughter of Sam Watson; the fiancée of Willie Murray, who is father to Jamie and Andy.

"Both of them are world class athletes, aren't they? You feel like you need to try to get up to their standards if you can," says Butchart.

"It's good to see - you see them like normal humans and I think 'I want to be as good as them'.

"Andy texted me to say 'well done' for getting into the team for Rio and Jamie did as well - we were just congratulating each other."

As Butchart looks ahead to Rio, he is visibly thrilled and inspired when he talks about lining up alongside Farah.

"It's incredible to run with Mo and he is such a talent, it's great," he explains.

"I want to get through to the final and then anything can happen but there are so many Kenyans and Ethiopians it's never going to be easy."

And, of the inclement rain at home, Butchart insists: "We are used to this - this is what it's like in the summer and the winter.

"It makes you stronger - and it means that the sun in Brazil is going to be so much nicer when I get there."