Top 50 Scottish sporting stars of decade - 40-31

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Watch: A look back on a decade of Scottish sport

This feature started as a tweet late at night, a request for people to suggest their top-five sporting Scots of the decade. The responses came in a blur. Days after the original question was posed they were still coming. Name after name, sport after sport.

A top-five became a top-20 and then a top-50. Asking for nominations was the easy part. Going through them all, registering each suggestion and then adding to the master-list proved challenging. There's been about 150 different versions of our top-50. A rower moved up a place, a footballer moved down a place, a person coming in from left field to replace somebody who was in and then was out. All the time, the mind was driven that bit closer to distraction.

How do you construct a top-50 of the greatest sporting Scots of the decade? With great difficulty, as it turns out. It's tough enough to figure out the chosen ones, but then to rank them in order from 50-1 is a task that tens of thousands of people might try but one that would surely produce tens of thousands of different outcomes. It's fun, though. There's no right way or wrong way of doing this. If sport resulted in everybody agreeing with each other then what a dull world it would be.

There are people on this list - not many, but some - who have won precious little in their careers but whose world-class talent demand that they be included. But where? How do you look on somebody whose star shone briefly in the decade but incredibly brightly? How do you rank somebody who excelled for years but in a sport where the competition wasn't as hot as other sports? Weighting achievement across the sports is no easy business.

Is longevity a pre-requisite or should there be a place for one-off brilliance? Where do you place an athlete with world championship gold medals compared to one with Olympic silver? How many footballers deserve - truly deserve - to make it? What those those compete wonderfully but in sports with little following? How do we look on para-sportsmen and sportswomen and their place in the overall scheme?

There were any amount of real puzzlers. Numerous times there was gridlock when trying to separate two people from the same sport with similar achievements. In that case, advice from an expert from that sport was sought. Normally, it went something like this: "I'd pick X ahead of Y and here are the reasons, but don't quote me!"

The final list, then. Fifty names from 25 different sports. You may disagree with much of it, but consensus on this kind of thing is always over-rated.

40. Seonaid McIntosh

Seonaid McIntosh
Seonaid McIntosh hails from a family of shooting luminaries

McIntosh had the most incredible 2019 in becoming Britain's most successful rifle shooter of all time. Daughter of Shirley and Donald and younger sister of Jen, success at the highest level of her sport is in the family genes. This year she won three World Cup medals (one gold, two silver in the 50m rifle 3 positions and the 10m air rifle) as well as European gold. Last year she became world champion in the 50m prone rifle. She also broke a world record.

A few months back she was named Scottish sportsperson of the year at the Tea Scotland Sports Awards, joining such luminaries as Andy Murray, Katherine Grainger and Chris Hoy in taking the top prize. Her best years are probably all ahead of her - an exciting thought as the Tokyo Olympics begins to loom large on the horizon.

"It's been a crazy year," she said recently. It doesn't look like there's going to be a let-up any time soon in McIntosh's pursuit of honours.

39. Colin Montgomerie

Monty was a successful Ryder Cup captain at Celtic Manor in 2010 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013. By then he had joined the seniors ranks and he's been a consistent winner. On numerous occasions in his peak years he came agonisingly to a major championship but he could never quite close the deal. On the seniors tour he has won three - the PGA and the US Open in 2014 and a second PGA in 2015.

He was won four more times in America, the latest one coming in California this year where he edged out Bernhard Langer. On this side of the water he won six times on the seniors circuit in the decade. He won the order of merit in Europe in 2014 and 2015, a reminder of his years of dominance on the continent's main tour. He had traumas in recent years, divorcing for a second time, but golf always proved his comfort blanket. He remains a compelling character - charismatic and cranky depending on his mood.

38. Dan Purvis

When he retired from gymnastics this year, Purvis left behind a fair old legacy. A bronze medal on the floor at the world championships in 2019, part of the Great Britain team that took bronze at the Olympics in 2012, team silver and individual bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, part of the first GB line-up that won a men's team medal at the world championships in 2015. They finished ahead of world and Olympic champions, China, on that occasion.

That was undoubtedly one of the highlights of his career. He won two more medals at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018 to add to his haul. There's no doubting that Purvis helped transform the reputation of men's artistic gymnastics. "The one that has to stand out the most for me was the London 2012 bronze team medal," he said when announcing that he was retiring. "It was always a dream of mine as a little boy to go to the Olympic Games but to come away with a medal was something I never thought would happen; I still get goose bumps to this day thinking about it."

37. Ross Murdoch

Probably the abiding image of Glasgow's hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2014 was the expression on Ross Murdoch's face when he realised he'd just beaten hot favourite and Games poster boy, Michael Jamieson, to the gold medal in the 200m breaststroke final. Murdoch swam a world class race and caused an absolute sensation.

He went on to win gold in the 4x100m mixed relay at the world championships in Kazan in 2015 as well as a bronze in the 100m breaststroke. He won European medals to boot. Everything was building towards the Rio Olympics where his hopes came crashing down. He competed way below par and struggled to deal with the disappointment. Murdoch, like Jamieson, battled with mental health issues for a while. At the 2017 worlds in Budapest he won silver in the 4x100m relay and had regained his love of swimming by the time he competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, winning silver in the 200m breaststroke.

36. Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend led Scotland to a famous Calcutta Cup triumph over England in 2018

His work as head coach with Glasgow Warriors from 2012-2017 was outstanding, not just in terms of recruiting cleverly, coaching smartly and winning the club's first, and only, major trophy (the Pro12 in 2015) but in building up a culture and support base at Scotstoun that many would have thought impossible in a football-dominated city like Glasgow. The Warriors had to put up extra stands to cope with the demand for tickets to watch a team that were an attacking joy at their peak.

Townsend moved up to coach the national team in 2017. A magnificent win over Australia in Sydney and an even more brilliant victory over England at Murrayfield have been the high points. The lows have been too many though. The team had an awful 2019 - one win in the Six Nations and an early exit from the World Cup. Townsend has to return to winning ways - and soon.

35. David Florence

The much-decorated Florence had better not try to bring all his medals on his canoe with him for a photo opportunity at any stage because there is no greater certainty than the thing sinking under the weight of all that metal he has won over the years. An Olympic medallist in the last decade, Florence racked up an amount of big podium finishes over the last 10 years.

He has won one gold, one silver and five bronze medals at the European championships. He's delivered three golds, one silver and five bronze at the world championships. When winning individual and doubles gold at the worlds in Prague in 2013 he became the first man to achieve that feat in 60 years. He's also produced silvers at the last two Olympics in London 2012 and Rio 2016. He might be approaching the end of his run but his longevity has been extraordinary, a staying power rooted in talent and passion.

34. Libby Clegg

The influence of the sprinter on Scottish athletics can be seen in many ways, not least her medal haul and her athlete of the year awards which she started winning in 2006 and won again in 2008. In this decade, however, Clegg, has been named Scottish Athlete of the Year no less than five times - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Suffering from a degenerative eye condition called Stargadt disease, Clegg has triumphed in para sports. At the Paralympics in London in 2012 she won silver in the 100m and four years later she won double gold in the 100m and 200m breaking the world record in the former and the Paralympic record in the latter. Clegg also took gold and three silvers in the world championships in 2011 and 2013.

She is an athlete of international recognition, an outstanding performer who has had to overcome some mental health issues along the way. She's now a proud mum and is thinking of the Tokyo games next year.

33. Scott Brash

Scott Brash
Scott Brash has become a highly decorated showjumper

Showjumping is so far off most radars in Scotland that Scott Brash's exploits over the span of the decade have not commanded the kind of attention they probably deserved but the Peebles horseman is one of the best around and his partnership with his Belgian-bred gelding Hello Sanctos was a triumph right up until the 17-year-old was retired earlier in 2019.

Together they won an Olympic gold in the team jumping event in London 2012 as well as triumphing in the worlds in 2013 and winning myriad other top prizes on the showjumping circuit. Brash never thought he'd ever find one as as good as Sanctos. He had the support of wealthy backers but money isn't always a guarantee of world class in this game. Brash hit the jackpot when Sanctos came into his life. "One of the best horses there's ever been," he says.

32. Callum Skinner

Skinner won gold and silver on the track at the Rio Olympics, topping the podium in the team sprint and finishing second in the individual sprint. He's also a European champion. Now retired, Skinner has his place in the list of great British track cyclists, not on the same exalted level as Chris Hoy - only Jason Kenny could rival him - but definitely in the conversation. There is something else about Skinner that appeals greatly though.

In professional sport too few elite sportsmen and sportswomen keep their head below the parapet when it comes to contentious issues like doping. They, or their management companies, are too concerned with keeping their brand free of controversy that they run a mile when it comes to discussing cheating. Skinner has been a voice of bravery and intelligence on this and other thorny subjects. He's not just a fine champion but also a vocal advocate of clean sport.

31. Eilidh Doyle

In 2017, Doyle surpassed Yvonne Murray to become Scotland's most decorated athlete across Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic competition. A silver at the world championships in the 4x400m relay did the job. Doyle was elected captain of Great Britain's athletics team at that competition, one of a vast array of achievements in her sport in the decade.

She's won three silvers at three successive Commonwealth Games, two golds at European championships and two silvers and a bronze at world championships. In 2014 she became the first Briton since Sally Gunnell 20 years earlier to win a 400m hurdles titles. At the Rio Olympics in 2016, as part of the 4x400m relay team, she won bronze. A talented and popular athlete, Doyle's leadership has been recognised on numerous occasions, not least with Team GB at the 2017 world championships and with Scotland at the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.

The athletes ranked from 30-21 will be revealed on Sunday, with a further 10 each day until the winner is announced on Hogmanay.

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