Lynsey Sharp facing fitness race for world trials

Lynsey Sharp, centre, at her old school, The Mary Erksine Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
Lynsey Sharp, centre, at her old school, The Mary Erksine Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
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LYNSEY Sharp is facing a race against time to be fit for the world championships trials, but yesterday she enjoyed a trip down memory lane and gave some helpful hints to the next generation of Scottish athletic hopefuls.

On the eve of the anniversary of her greatest achievement to date in winning the European championship 800m title in Helsinki – well, she actually finished second on the night but was upgraded from silver to gold after Russian Yelena Arzhakova was found to be a dope cheat – the Olympian conducted a master class at The Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh.

As a former pupil, she was delighted to meet up with the first and second year athletics’ team as part of the Alfa Romeo Home Town Heroes Scheme.

“I had the most fun time at school,” said Sharp. “I’ve been back to make a speech but it was nice to be doing something sporty. It’s just a pity that it rained and we couldn’t get outside.”

Sharp is certain to be one of the home stars at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but this summer is all about trying to make it to the start line for Team GB at the world championships in Moscow in August. At this stage, she reckons it is touch and go.

The British championships, doubling as the world selection event, start in Birmingham on 12 July, the day after her 23rd birthday. “Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple of niggling ankle injuries but I’m still hopeful of making it to the trials,” she said.

“I’ve had loads of physiotherapy down at Loughborough and, at the moment, I’m not getting too worked up about it. I think I’ll be in Birmingham. I’m in good shape and just need some racing.”

Sharp’s Olympic selection last year was laced with controversy – several athletes were vying for the British 800m spot – and she gives the impression that London 2012 wasn’t quite the truly memorable once-in-a-lifetime memory that everyone dreamed about. But she did make the semi-finals and agreed the experience was worth its weight in gold. “The European championships were definitely my highlight last year,” she reflected. “But I’m still waiting to get the gold medal. It will be a year tomorrow since the race – I think I might have defended the title next summer before I get it. I know some people have had to wait for years.

“The 800m at the Olympics was very different but I’m sure having run in London will help a lot when it comes to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

“My goal is to get a medal next year and I’m thankful that the injury has come this season and not next. Rio 2016 has always been my Olympic target. I’ll be 26 and, by then, should be running right at my peak.”

Sharp started her career at Meadowbank and, despite the stadium having degenerated into a rather jaded relic, it is still an arena with positive vibes.

“I’ve trained there since I was six and I’ve always loved it,” she said of a place that was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. But, nowadays, she spends a lot of time working at the state-of-the-art facilities in Loughborough, and she also had the chance to gain insight into another athletics culture with a trip to Kenya, a distance runners’ paradise, earlier in the year.

“It was my first time training at altitude and it was a very hard block of training,” she said. “I have never been anywhere so hilly. Every single run was in boiling heat and up a hill. I came back really, really fit.”

As for yesterday, there was a flood of memories of happy days gone by. “I loved school sports days and I believe I still hold some of the records,” said the 22-year-old who was voted Scottish Athlete of the Year by Scottish Athletics in both 2011 and 2012.

For the pupils, it was the perfect send-off before the school holidays and the group included Catherine McHardy, a talented sprinter who competed for the Edinburgh Schools’ Under-15 team and Esme Stewart, one of four sisters who are all talented athletes. “We have a strong athletics team and we have a fixture and train once a week,” said PE teacher, Graeme Blackhall. “It’s great to have Lynsey back at the school to pass on some tips to the girls.”

Sharp is encouraged by the growth of her sport and she reports that there has been a deluge of interest at Meadowbank following London 2012. But, as she pointed out, it’s not all good news. “Unfortunately, they can’t cope with the number that want to join,” she said. “But I’m sure Glasgow 2014 will also help a lot in boosting athletics. I certainly hope so.”