Lynsey Sharp looks to kick on after momentous year

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THERE can’t be many athletes who have gone off to America for a few weeks and returned as European champion, but that’s what has happened to Lynsey Sharp. The Scottish 800-metre runner flies back from the USA today after an eventful stay, in which she also played a part in setting a new British record for the 4x800m relay.

All in all, it has been a momentous year for the 22-year-old from Edinburgh. Around this time in 2012, she was still no more than hopeful of making it into the Great Britain team for the London Olympics.

“I’ve filled in all the forms for the Olympics,” she said last April. “I’ve tried on the kit. I’ve got letters and e-mails about it.

“But I’m not certain at all. To think that I could have done all that, but easily might not make it – that’s what makes you want to get there.

“I’m confident I can do the time. I’m in a much better place now than I was a year ago, and if I get into the right races I’m sure I can do it.”

Sharp earned selection for the team by winning the Olympic Trials, then justified the selectors’ faith in her at the European Championships in Helsinki, where a late burst took her to a second-place finish in a new personal-best time behind Yelena Arzhakova. Only last week, however, the Russian was suspended for two years because of a doping violation, and her results annulled back to July 2011.

Once ratified, Arzhakova will be stripped of her gold medal, and Sharp upgraded from silver. The Scot’s European Under-23 bronze medal from 2011 will also become a silver. “I’m disappointed it happened this way but I am relieved drug cheats are being caught,” Sharp said.

By the time of that announcement, she had already run her first outdoor race of the new season at the Mount Sac meeting in California, where she recorded a qualifying time for next year’s Commonwealth Games. She followed that a week later with that new British relay record at the Penn Relays meeting, when she ran the third leg in a quartet that also included Marilyn Okoro, Jemma Simpson and Cara Bird.

She spent last week on the west coast of the US, and ran in the Rerun San Diego meeting on Sunday. Unfortunately, she had been unable to train properly before the event because of a chest infection, and had to pull out of the race at the bell.

Back in Britain, Sharp’s first outing is likely to be at Loughborough at the end of the month. After that, the countdown will begin in earnest to the trials for the World Championships in Moscow.