THERE was one giant leap for Manson on Saturday as high jumper Nikki of that ilk took her place among the other brightest stars in the Scottish athletics firmament.
Not only was the 24-year-old over the moon to be able to confirm her late call-up for April’s Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast amongst the latest tranche of Team Scotland who had their identities revealed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery yesterday, she was able to bask in the glory of the new Scottish national record of 1.90m which she claimed at the Universities and Colleges meet at the Emirates Arena. All in all, her recent ascension was just rewards for what could be called a fairly sizeable leap of faith.
Manson, you see, was still reeling from being told, as recently as December, that there was no room for her at Australia’s sporting showpiece. She only managed to jump the qualifying standard of 1.86 once during 2017, when two standards are required. By the end, plugging away on a track and field scholarship at Akron University in Ohio, the pressure was making her feel ill.
But while part of her was hatching plans to ignore the event altogether with a training stint in the US. the other half was outright refusing to take no for an answer. Knuckling down to the task of jumping higher than ever before during this indoor season, so far the results have been startling.
When she jumped 1.87 at a meeting in the Czech Republic in late January, the selectors could ignore her no longer. Then back in Glasgow last Saturday, jumping in the secret knowledge that she had finally been accepted, she consolidated her recent giant leap forward by jumping her way into the history books, a 1.90m leap which outstripped by 2cm the record of Emma Nuttall, her friend and rival who was previously selected but is now missing the games due to injury.
As much credit as Manson deserves the credit for her giant strides forward – perhaps fate has played a hand too. What number of vest was she wearing on Saturday for that giant 1.90 leap? Number one-ninety.
“It was always touch and go, athletics had a small team,”Manson said yesterday. “I could have gone, I could have not gone. But I didn’t think anyone would be added and I had already accepted my fate so that’s why I was so shell-shocked. I spent time in America last year so I was thinking about just going back there to train in April. I was still disappointed so I didn’t really want to watch the Games at all, I just wanted to be away.
“On Saturday I knew but a lot of my friends didn’t so I felt like I was going around with a secret,” she added. “A lot of people were saying I should be added to the team but I couldn’t say anything. Now it’s maybe hitting home, getting photos and doing interviews and meeting the rest of the team.”
Such a sudden emergence presents problems of its own. There are all manner of phone calls with friends and family hoping to get out to the Gold Coast in time to see her in action, while even her coach Ken Allan has a conflict in the calendar, missing most of the preparation as he is on a holiday to mark his wife’s retirement.
“My family have been asking questions I don’t know the answers to!” she said. “I know when I’m going, I don’t know when I’m coming back! My coach has just retired and he’s going on a retirement trip for his wife so he won’t be at the camp and I need to figure that out.”
But perhaps the most exciting thing about Manson is still how raw she is, how much room for improvement there could yet be. Manson’s stint in Ohio wasn’t entirely to her liking, but at least the games call-up validates the sacrifices she has made.
“I always knew I’d jump 1m 90, I just wasn’t sure when it would come,” she said. “I’m not technically the most proficient, I’m not that good at the Fosbury Flop so I have a lot of points to work at.
“I need to get my head back and my bum up,” added Manson, who messaged Nuttall to console her after she admitted defeat on her own hopes of reaching the games. “I’ve done it for quite a while but only the last couple of years I’ve specialised. I’ve been a bit lazy in the air and relied on my physicality. But I’ve broken the indoor Scottish record now and I’d like to get the outdoor record so I need to jump 1.92.”
“But feel like I took a year out and I feel I’ve been validated. Before I didn’t have anything to say for myself but now I can tell my friends!”