LYNSEY Sharp is preparing to face fellow Scottish Commonwealth Games heroine Eilidh Child and reigning world 400 metres champion Christine Ohuruogu in a novel 500 metres race in the Great North CityGames on the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside next Saturday.
The non-standard event, which will be run partly on road and partly on track, brings together world class British athletes from three specialist disciplines: 800m, 400m hurdles and 400m flat.
“It’s just a really unique opportunity to be able to run a 500m race,” said Sharp, the Edinburgh AC athlete who won 800m silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and followed that up with silver at the European Championships in Zurich.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it all works out: 400m runners and 400m hurdlers versus 800m runners. It’s the kind of distance that will have people wondering which type of athlete is best suited to. It’ll be fascinating to see how it works out on the day.”
Former European indoor 800m champion Jenny Meadows is also in the field, together with Ohuruogu, who regained the world 400m title in Moscow last summer, and Child, the Scot who has won Commonwealth silver and European gold in the 400m hurdles this summer. The battle of the Scots is sure to attract attention north of the Border, and the record books show that Sharp has a personal score to settle. She was beaten by Child in a low-key 400m race at Bedford in 2008 and over the same distance at the 2012 British Universities’ Championships.
“Gosh, I don’t remember either of those races,” confessed Sharp. “I can’t remember racing against Eilidh before.
“I’m just looking forward to the meeting because I’ve never run in a street race before. I’ve always wanted to run in the Great North CityGames. When I heard there was a 500m race on the programme this year, there was no way I was going to miss it.”
Sharp is so keen to make her CityGames debut she will fly straight into Newcastle from Brussels after racing in the final Diamond League meeting of the season this coming Friday. “I just want to go out and enjoy my last few races of the season: Brussels, the Great North CityGames and the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakesh,” said Sharp, whose preparation for the 2014 track season was hampered by two Achilles operations last winter. “I just want to continue on from what I did in Glasgow and Zurich for the next few weeks.
“I’ve achieved far more than I expected to this year. At the start of the season my aim was just to run the Commonwealth qualifying time, 2min 02sec, and to make the team for Glasgow.
“To have come out with two major championship medals and a Scottish record (1min 58.80sec) is far more than I could have wished for.”
For Ohuruogu, the 2014 season was always pencilled in as a low key-year after the stresses and strains of defending an Olympic title on home ground in 2012 and then challenging for the World Championship 400m crown in 2013. A bronze medal from the 4x400m relay at the Commonwealth Games and fourth place in the 400m final at the European Championships have come as a bonus for the 30-year-old Londoner – before she cranks up her training again in preparation for the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Crowds of up to 25,000 are expected to watch the free event featuring some of the most recognisable names in international sport.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games medallist Mark Dry has begged for a quick decision over his funding future after being left in limbo despite his bronze in the hammer at Glasgow 2014.
The Scottish champion goes into today’s Alan Bertram Memorial meeting in Livingston with his plans to target the Rio Olympics on hold while he waits to learn whether he will get Lottery support via UK Athletics. And although Dry wants to spend extra time in California with his coach Tore Gustafsson, he might have to seek out sponsors to boost his hopes. “I don’t know if I’ll be kicked off UK funding.” Dry said. “My Athlete Award from sportscotland expired after the Games. So I don’t know what’s happening or if I’ll be able to get help with flights. I’d love to go and train with my coach.”
Dry will face Scottish rivals Andy Frost and Chris Bennett at Craigwood in the tribute to hammer guru Bertram, who died last year.
l Marc Austin says a Scottish one-two with training partner Grant Sheldon in today’s world championships in Edmonton would be the perfect sign-off to their triathlon season. The Stirling-based pair took Under-20 silver and bronze last year but will be among the favourites for the under-23 title after establishing themselves among the ones to watch with their performances at senior level.
But Austin, who won plaudits for his brave challenge to the Brownlee brothers at Glasgow 2014, admits he has drawn up a Plan B to make a solo bid for glory. “If Grant and me end up together on the bike, then we will combine,” he said. “But triathlon’s one of those sports where you can plan as much as you want but, as we saw in Glasgow, you have to roll with what you get. You just need to race more and more and then you put yourself in different situations and get the experience of them.”