EMMA MONTIEL is dedicating her 10,000m race in the Commonwealth Games to her former coach Gerry North.
The City of Portsmouth athlete has been given a surprise Games call-up in the long-distance event for her birthplace Gibraltar.
A latecomer to the sport, the 39-year-old has enjoyed a spectacular rise, the likes of which she never dreamt of.
But she acknowledges she couldn’t have got there without her mentor North, who died in April this year.
She said: ‘It’s been a bit of a whirlwind really.
‘I only started running about four years ago, which is quite late to get into the sport.
‘I ran the D-Day 10k race in 2010, and that’s how it all began.
‘Since then my running has come on leaps and bounds.
‘I would like to dedicate my 10k to Gerry North, who sadly passed away earlier this year.
‘He was the one that brought me to City of Portsmouth in the first place.
‘He rang me up after the D-Day race and invited me to training.
‘He was very encouraging and had the patience of a saint.
‘He never had a bad word to say to anybody.
‘It’s a shame that he can’t watch me run in Glasgow.’
Montiel’s rapid success has come as a surprise even to her.
‘I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I would be competing at the Commonwealths,’ she said.
‘I’m still surprised at how well I’m running.
‘This is the biggest thing I’ve done and probably ever will do.
‘It’s an achievement of a lifetime and something to remember for the rest of my days.’
The Gibraltar Commonwealth Games Association paid for her flights and accommodation to participate in a time trial at Victoria Stadium in April - and she did not disappoint.
Montiel clocked a time of 36min 35sec, a new Gibraltar national record and just two seconds behind her personal best, which she set at the Eastleigh 10k in March.
And that was also inside the 37-minute mark required for Commonwealth Games qualification.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe I had done it. Then setting a national record was the icing on the cake.
‘I couldn’t be more pleased to be running in the Commonwealth Games, which is just one place short of the Olympics.’
Montiel’s big day is on July 29 and she is looking forward to the prospect.
‘I just want to go out there and enjoy the experience and run as best as I can,’ she said.
‘It’s a mixture of excitement and nervousness, but I think I will enjoy being there once I’m actually there.
‘My aim is set a new personal best.
‘To rub shoulders with the best in the world - the Kenyans - what better stage to do it on?
‘The stadium will be packed with 30 to 40 thousand people.
‘I’m also looking forward to staying in the athletes’ village, meeting some of the elite athletes and the opening and closing ceremonies.’