As ever, football has dominated Scotland’s sporting landscape this year. But between the likes of the Commonwealth Games, rugby athletics, boxing, tennis, racing and curling, there have been plenty other highlights to saviour.
Here are eight of the best for you to relive, then rank in order of your favourite…
Muir restates her class
Laura Muir wins the Diamond League 1500m title
At the end of August, in the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Laura Muir ran the most perfect 1500m race of her life. In winning the Diamond League title, Muir restated her class. On that night in Belgium she was up against three of the four fastest woman in the world this year, but she beat the lot of them.
In her homeland there was a buzz about what she did, but it came and went quickly, as it nearly always does for sports outside the football bubble. There’s much to look at it in the other world, though. And Muir is a decent starting point.
In 2018 she became a European champion and won two medals at the world indoor championships. Brussels was the centrepiece of her year, the performance that marked her out as a serious contender for next year’s world championships in Qatar and at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
It’s not just her excellence on the track that makes Muir special, though. She’s been outspoken about doping in her sport. She’s asked for more testing. She’s called out those she suspects of cheating. This is an athlete of substance.
Taylor climbs close to top of world
Super-lightweight boxer Josh Taylor’s inexorable rise
The super-lightweight fought three times in 2018 and won three times, each victory moving him ever closer to the world title fight that is his right. In beating the previously undefeated American Ryan Martin in the autumn, Taylor has set himself up for a tilt Ivan Baranchyk, the Belarusian IBF world champion.
Martin had won 22 fights on the bounce but Taylor put him away in seven rounds. That brought his record to a perfect 14 wins from 14 fights. When they meet early in the new year, Taylor will be favourite to dethrone Baranchyk. The early betting has the Prestonpans fighter at odds-on. That’s a bit disrespectful to Baranchyk, who is two years younger than Taylor and who has the size and power to get the job done if Taylor has an off-night. He hasn’t had too many.
The Tartan Tornado has a momentous battle ahead of him, but his talent has taken him this far and he shows no sign of slowing down now. “I don’t think there’s anyone going to stop me,” he said after defeating Martin. You’d probably have to go all the way to Belarus to find anybody who disagrees.
Scotland beat England in the Six Nations
Sean Maitland’s try in the outstanding win over England was the single greatest moment of the rugby season.
From start to finish, it encapsulated Scotland at their thrilling best. This was an epic score. From John Barclay winning turnover ball in his own 22, to Finn Russell’s other-worldly pass over the head of Jonathan Joseph and into the hands of the hard-running Huw Jones, it was one of the most beautiful tries you could ever hope to see in a sport where, too often, negativity rules.
The support play, the accuracy, the skill level – it was all there. It took 61 seconds from the moment Barclay won that turnover penalty at one end to the moment Maitland touched down at the other. It was a try that got the spirits soaring on a memorable Calcutta Cup day.
For Scotland, the challenge in 2019 is to gain consistency. They remain a team of extremes – incredibly high and incredibly low. Gregor Townsend is looking for the even keel that will see them becoming Six Nations contenders.
Scotland beat England at cricket
Missing out on qualification for the World Cup in controversial circumstances, Scotland faced England in a one day international in Edinburgh in June. This was the 13th ranked team against the world number one – and there was an upset to beat all upsets.
The Scots won by six runs in front of a delirious home crowd. Central to it all was a magnificent innings from Calum MacLeod who scored an unbeaten 140 runs off 94 balls. Individually and collectively it was a stunning performance on a day when Scotland wowed the cricket world.
Scott makes splash in Gold Coast pool
Duncan Scott wins Commonwealth swimming medals
Some time spent in the company of Scotland’s swimming team at the Commonwealth Games was an education in sporting passion. To hear of their training regimes since childhood, to learn of the hours upon hours they had spent in the pool to get to this point – all done for the love of the sport rather than any financial reward or national exposure – was illuminating.
The star of the team in Australia was Duncan Scott. His victory in the blue riband 100m freestyle final wasn’t just Commonwealth class, it was world class. In that final he had the Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers for company. Nobody could see past Chalmers, or The Big Tuna as he is known to his fellow Australians. If he was to have a rival, then the local reporters listed the great South African Chad le Clos and the excellent Aussie duo of Cameron McEvoy and Jack Cartwright.
But in a stunning last 50m, Scott got up to beat them all. As a single moment of brilliance it was arguably the highlight of the Scottish sporting year. The mad irony, of course, is that even now if this remarkable young talent walked down the street in his own country few would know who he is.
Murray keeps family flag flying
Jamie Murray wins US Open doubles title
Jamie Murray might not have the profile of his brother, but he continues to chalk up the grand slam titles none the less. In partnering the American Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win the mixed doubles title at the US Open, Murray claimed his sixth major title fully 11 years after winning his first.
Murray has competed in 10 grand slam finals, a testament to his quality and his longevity. The cast of characters by his side has changed over the years, from John Peers to Bruno Soares in men’s doubles, from Jelena Jankovic to Liezel Huber to Martina Hingis to Victoria Azarenka to Mattek-Sands in mixed doubles, but success on the world stage keeps coming.
While his brother has been away resting and recuperating, Jamie Murray has kept the family flag flying in tennis’s biggest arenas.
Grace Reid wins Commonwealth Games diving gold
The buzz around the Aquatics Centre in the Gold Coast is easy to recall even though many months have passed since Grace Reid won an unexpected gold in the 1m springboard, an event that was supposed to be her second-best behind the 3m.
Reid’s smile in the aftermath was one of the images of the games, but this is a young athlete doesn’t tend to linger on individual moments for too long, not matter how special. There is a drive in her that is unmistakeable. From Australia to Edinburgh, where she won European gold in the summer. All the while the dream is to deliver in Tokyo in 2020. Everything leads to that. All the hours, all the sacrifice, all the days and nights away from the spotlight, all the dedication to achieving that end goal.
There are few rewards for Reid in her game. Not of the financial kind, at any rate. We flit in and out of her world only when major championships come along. We pay attention only when it suits us and then we drift away. If we stayed a little longer we could learn something. From Reid and from so many others who excelled in 2018.
Johnston into racing’s pantheon of greats
Mark Johnston becomes most successful British trainer of all time
Born in Glasgow and raised in Aberfoyle, Mark Johnston has had to work fiendishly hard to get to where he got to in 2018 in the horseracing game. In August, Frankie Dettori rode 20-1 shot Poet’s Society to victory in a one-mile handicap at York. On the face of it, it was a nothing race. In reality, it was history.
Poet’s Society was Johnston’s 4,194th winner – and it was the win that made him, in terms of raw numbers if not prize money, the most successful British trainer of all-time. What is remarkable about Johnston is that throughout his 31 years training in England he has never really had the patronage of mega-rich owners. Nor did he have a background in racing going back the generations. He is a self-made trainer and 2018 was his crowing glory.
The fact that he has lived away from his homeland for so long hasn’t diluted his Scottishness one iota. Johnston deserves his place in the pantheon of greats.
Scotland's 2018 sporting highlights
Rank these eight non-football Scottish sporting highlights from 2018