London 2012 Olympics: Lynsey Sharp silences those questioning her place in Team GB
IT WAS always hard to understand why Lynsey Sharp’s selection for Team GB should be deemed “controversial”, given she had first won the national trials and then won a silver medal at the European Championships.
And it became even harder to understand yesterday, when the Edinburgh athlete qualified with ease for today’s semi-finals of the 800 metres.
The 21-year-old came second in her heat behind Kenya’s 2008 champion Pamela Chelimo, easing off a good 40m from the line to finish in 2mins 01.41secs. Her personal best of 2:00.52 is her target this evening, and if she breaks that she has a chance of getting into the final. “To track Pamela was the plan, and I just eased off at the end, because I could see on the screen that there were two of us clear,” she said of a race from which the first three qualified by right. “I haven’t raced since the Europeans, so I definitely feel I’ve got more in me. I’ve just had a good block of training in Portugal, and I’m feeling in great shape.
“The minimum I wanted to do was make the semi. Now I’ve done that you can say the pressure is off and I can enjoy it. I’ve run in races of a higher quality than that this year, so that helped prepare me really well. I knew what I had to do was finish in the top three.
“Even if [the semi-final] is a fast race, I’d still want to run my own race. There’s no point in going through in 55, 56, because I’m not going to run a PB off that. A PB is what I want out of the semi-final.”
Sharp was chosen for the team ahead of three more experienced athletes - Marilyn Okoro, Jenny Meadows, and Gemma Simpson, whom she beat in the trials. Okoro is here as part of the 4x400, having dropped her threat to quit the sport in protest at her non-selection for the individual event. She has offered her support to Sharp, but the Scot revealed the other two had not been in touch. “We’re not friends. We never have been. But Marilyn’s on the team, so I’ve obviously spoken to her. She’s a really nice girl. I don’t think she’d ever say anything bad. I’ve not had any messages from the other girls, but that’s not a problem.”
There was another capacity crowd in the Olympic Stadium for the morning session, and it was certainly not a problem for them to get behind Sharp, as she had been assured they would. “My mum said to me before, ‘Once you go here, no matter what you do, or they could not know anything about you, they’re supporting you because you’re GB. That took the pressure off, and I just thought ‘Yeah, go out there and put on a good show for them’.”
By making her Olympic debut, Sharp was carrying on a family tradition – her father, Cameron, ran for Britain at the Moscow Games in 1980. She had hoped he could make it down to London, but his mobility has been limited since a severe car accident 20 years ago, and he thought it better to stay at home. “Obviously I wanted him to be here, but he made the decision not to come,” she said. “It was too much bother, and he’d had a fall a few months ago so he didn’t want to risk it. But he said himself it’s going to be easier to watch on TV.
“I spoke to him on Skype last night, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen emotion in him. He’s not the most emotional person, but certainly at the Europeans and about this he was smiling and stuff, which was nice. He just told me to enjoy it, really. That was the main thing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so just use it.”
Chelimo’s bid to retain her title faces a fierce challenge from Caster Semenya – one of two women in the 800m who have made international headlines off the track. Sarat Attar, wearing a white headscarf, green long-sleeved shirt and black leggings, became the first Saudi woman to compete in Olympic athletics.
With the 80,000-capacity crowd cheering, she finished her heat in 2:44.95 – more than 40 seconds behind the fastest qualifier - and failed to advance to the semi-finals. “It is the greatest honour to be here to represent the women of Saudi Arabia,” Attar said. “It is a historic moment. I hope it will make a difference.”
Semenya, making her Olympic debut three years after being forced to undergo gender tests, finished second in her 800m heat.
The South African runner was sidelined for nearly a year while track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, decided whether to allow her to compete after she won the 2009 world title at age 18. She was tested and eventually cleared to return to action in 2010, then was the runner-up at last year’s world championships. Semenya carried South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremonies in London and is a leading medal podium chance in the 800m. “It was a tactical race, I wanted the race to be a fast one,” Semenya said. “I have to run a sub-two (minutes) race to be a contender.”
To complete a fascinating set of women’s 800m heats, Turkey’s Merve Aydin limped around in 3:24.35 after suffering an injury just a few metres into heat two but refused to step off the track.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West