At this time last year there were loose signs that the world of sports was getting closer to something that vaguely looked like ‘normal’, but it turned out that much of the year continued. to be marred by cancellations, athlete withdrawals due to positive Covid tests and empty stands.
With more than a few major championships staged from 2021 to this year, the 2022 calendar is packed.
This means this year presents even more than normal opportunities for the Scots to shine.
There are the usual suspects worth watching.
In track and field, Olympic medalists Laura Muir and Josh Kerr will be desperate to continue their exploits in Tokyo.
Likewise, in track cycling, Katie Archibald, who won a remarkable harvest of Olympic gold and silver, four medals at the World Championships, including one gold, three European titles and an overall victory in the the Champions League premier, was in dazzling form in 2021 and will be optimistic to continue on the same path.
Andy Murray, Eve Muirhead and Duncan Scott will also make headlines.
And, of course, the national men’s football team which is trying to qualify for its first World Cup in 24 years in the play-offs in March will be in the spotlight.
But 2022 is going to be remarkable for more than just the big names.
There are more than a handful of Scottish athletes who are on the cusp of success and worth watching over the next twelve months.
Here are some of the names I will be looking for …
Endurance runner Megan Keith, 19, started showing glimpses of her improvements this summer.
Personal bests on the track in the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m indicated that she had made significant progress, but it was her cross country performances over the winter that really made everyone sit and notice. .
Numerous victories, including a Scottish Under-20 title, preceded her highlight of the year, becoming the European Under-20 Cross Country Champion last month.
As she moves up to seniors this year her self-confidence couldn’t be higher and for someone who has never considered herself to be purely a runner – she is also a British orienteering internationalist – she has plenty of room for improvement.
The 5,000m qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Games remains considerably faster than it has so far, but given her remarkable achievements in 2021, it looks like almost anything is possible this year.
Until he hit his mid-twenties, Josh Quigley had barely rode a bike.
But after starting to cycle to deal with his mental health and alcohol issues, Quigley has turned into one of Scotland’s most notable athletes.
He rose to fame in 2021 setting a new world record for the longest distance cycled in seven days – he has ridden just under 2,180 miles – but what he’s trying to do this year may be even more ambitious.
Quigley has now turned his attention to becoming a professional road racer, and he hopes 2022 will be the year he signs with a professional team, with the ultimate goal of winning the Tour de France.
There are considerable differences between solo record attempts and being successful in the pro peloton, which Quigley freely admits, but there is no doubt that he has both the capacity for endurance and the will to do so. .
It remains to be seen if he possesses the other qualities required to reach the pinnacle of road racing, but this year will give a very good idea if he has a chance of making it.
Scotland currently has no shortage of top quality boxers; Josh Taylor and Hannah Rankin are both reigning world champions while Lee McGregor is European, British and Commonwealth champion.
And encouragingly, a 20-year-old has recently emerged who has achieved something that even this trio have failed to do in the amateur ranks; win a medal at the amateur boxing world championships.
Reese Lynch won bronze in November and will look to build on that result over the next twelve months.
The Commonwealth Games this summer will be another medal opportunity for Lynch, as the pro ranks surely wait for years to come.
Freestyle skier Kirsty Muir has yet to formalize her place on the GB squad for next month’s Winter Olympics, but it’s only a matter of time and she is certainly one to watch.
After showing considerable promise for a long time, Muir made a huge breakthrough last March by winning his first World Cup medal and securing second place in the overall World Tour standings.
She may still be 17, but regardless of her young age, she is billed as one of GB’s top medal prospects in Beijing next month.
If she got her hands on Olympic silverware, she would be the first Scottish skier to do so.
Scottish swimmers have flourished in recent years, with Katie Shanahan stating that she has everything to be the next big star.
Six-time medalist at the European Junior Championships last year, she stepped into the senior ranks with her first British selection at the World Short Course Championships last month.
With the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships just months apart this summer, 17-year-old Shanahan could well make a real breakthrough in 2022.
That there are so many emerging talents on these shores to be excited about is extremely encouraging.
2021 has turned out to be a surprising success from a Scottish perspective; encouragingly, 2022 could turn out to be even better.