Coach Sophie has been a huge support, says World Cup champion mountain runner
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Caithness athlete Andrew Douglas has paid tribute to coach Sophie Dunnett for being a "huge support" and helping him become a World Cup champion.
“When we started working together I would probably say I was a good-standard club athlete and she has taken me from that level to getting Scotland vests and then onwards to GB representation," Andrew said. "She has been with me through that whole journey."
The 34-year-old from Halkirk – who in 2019 became World Cup series mountain running champion for a second time – was speaking after Sophie was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to amateur athletics.
Sophie (54) has been coaching for more than 30 years and is the head coach of North Highland Harriers.
Andrew, who is based in Edinburgh, said: “Sophie has really been the main driving force behind creating the North Highland Harriers. When I was at school, just before I left for uni, there wasn't really a running community here, so to speak. We had Caithness AAC, but it's such a huge gain for the community to have a running club like this.
“She has the vision to recognise the positive impact something like that has – not just in an elite sport sense, which has obviously helped me a lot, but also in terms of the grassroots community and giving people an opportunity to meet up to exercise together and put on events like the Castle of Mey 10k and really make a difference to people's wellbeing and mental health.
“I think it can't be overestimated, the impact it has on a place like this."
Andrew revealed how Sophie's training sessions had enabled him to reach new heights as an athlete.
“She really challenges me to push myself in training," he said. "She comes up with sessions that I wouldn't have dreamt of. You don't think it's possible.
"But she has that belief in me that I can do the type of training that's demanded of the level that I want to aspire to. She has always been there as a huge support.
“I think what really distinguishes her from other coaches is the kind of psychological support that she provides. She has a great way of making you take a look at the bigger picture and not beat yourself up if you have a bad race.
“She is completely supportive as well when you go through tough times with injuries and things like that. She is just someone who is always there, and she gives that same level of commitment to any athlete she coaches.”