LYNSEY Sharp’s route to Beijing is a straight flight path from A to B. Earn a top-two finish in today’s 800 metres final at the UK Championships in Birmingham and the 2012 European champion will be assured of her place in the British team bound for the world championships.
Yet retaining her domestic title, the Scot advises, would be winning a battle rather than the war. And she is intent on negotiating the high road in China next month, no matter the intense depth of competition currently sprawling all over her chosen event.
Sharp had little trouble in emerging victorious in yesterday’s semi-final amid blazing sunshine but true illumination of her capabilities, she trusts, will come inside the Bird’s Nest. Currently ranked 22nd in the world and still to dip inside two minutes in 2015, she has instead opted to conserve her energies for the business end of the season, arriving here refreshed and emboldened by a stint in Boston overseen by her coach Terrence Mahon.
Others have rushed forward while she has remained tethered. “Everyone’s season is different,” she said. “But I’d rather be running fast in August than peaking now. I’ve had some unbelievable sessions and I’ve been able to compare them to last year. It’s really positive, I just have to trust my coach and trust myself.”
In the final here, she will be tested by both Jenny Meadows and Alison Leonard, as well as her Edinburgh AC club-mate Emily Dudgeon, who claimed first place in her heat. It will be another examination but Sharp has shown a useful tendency to perform at the optimal moment.
“I know I’m in better shape than last year,” she said. “That was 1:58 so it’s all about pushing on. I peaked at the right time last year so I’m confident I’m going in the right direction.” Despite inconsistent results over the opening part of the summer, Eilidh Child insists she will likewise be in the mix for a medal in Beijing as she heads into the last bend of her preparations. The European champion coasted into this afternoon’s 400m hurdles final as the quickest qualifier but must now shrug off the burden of high expectations. “This red number advertises the fact you should be winning which is not necessarily how it goes,” she said. “But I fought hard to be number one last year so I need to go with it.”
Dina Asher-Smith is now the hunted of the domestic sprinting firmament but the 19-year-old, who lowered the British record to 11.02 seconds six weeks ago, will not be simply waved through to claim the 100m title. Fastest in the heats, she will be joined by Asha Philip and Bianca Williams in what is becoming a compelling domestic contest.
“The rivalry is great for our sport,” Philip, the reigning champion, said. “Everyone is now talking about the 100m women more than the boys. I’m getting phone calls almost every day about it but I just love it. It will surely elicit the best in all involved. In the final everyone is going to bring their A game.”
Laura Muir affirmed her place in the women’s 1500m final by heading her heat, while European bronze medallist Chris O’Hare did just enough to make the men’s 1500m final with third place in his semi. And there was a promising effort from Jake Wightman, who held off Tom Lancashire to win his heat. The European junior champion has now overcome an iron deficiency and senses he can return to his prior trajectory. “It’s been as much a mental thing lately as anything,” he said. “But I got a boost with how I ran in Watford last week and it’s spilled into this.”
Amid the smattering of finals on Day Two of the meeting, Tiffany Porter came out on top in a familial battle with sister Cindy Ofili in the 100m hurdles, with Jessica Ennis-Hill taking bronze, and the Olympic champion confirming she will leave her decision on whether to go to Beijing until after this month’s Diamond League meeting in London. “I need to do two or three events to see if I’m ready and then I can make a decision and move on for the rest of the season or call it a day,” she said.
Scotland’s Lennie Waite regained her 3000m steeplechase title with a comprehensive performance but will now have to chase the qualifying marks required. “It was the main purpose of coming here so I’m happy with that,” she said. “It’s hard to find the calibre of steeplechase – I might run in Ireland on Friday and then in Sweden.” Elsewhere, Kirsty Law took bronze in the discus.
• Eilish McColgan is to undergo surgery in London tomorrow in a bid to repair the broken foot she sustained in South Africa earlier this year. “It could mean I look at the 5000 or 10000 metres for Rio,” she admitted. “I won’t be able to hurdle as much as I was doing.”