After prevaricating over whether to go to this month’s IAAF world indoor championships in Portland in the wake of a rare domestic defeat in last weekend’s trials, Lynsey Sharp has opted for a speedy return across the Atlantic and a tilt at claiming a global 800 metres medal that would enhance her CV.
The 25-year-old, whose training hub is now centred on Boston, has been urged into the venture before focusing fully on an Olympic title.
The former European champion was one of four Scots included yesterday in a 23-strong British team for the event which will be staged in Oregon from 17-20 March. Her Edinburgh AC club-mate Chris O’Hare had his wish for a berth granted in the wake of impressive showings on the USA circuit, while Steph Twell and Jo Moultrie, first and second in the 3,000m at the trials, had already presented a compelling case.
Sharp, who had run only twice indoors in seven years before this season, is yet to feel truly comfortable on the boards. However from lowering the Scottish record to 2 minutes and 30 hundredths of a second last month in Massachusetts, she sits fifth in the global rankings. And with her coach Terrence Mahon supportive, accepting the invite was a no-brainer, UK Athletics performance director Neil Black insisted. He said: “She wanted more high standard competition.
“She wanted to learn and gain from the indoor environment to look at the tactical and technical elements associated with it. She’s going through that process and probably just faltered for a short while after Sunday.
“But I’m really glad that with sensible conversations with her coach and with Barry Fudge, the head of endurance, she’s decided to stick with the plan – which is go and be competitive with the best in the world, learn and apply your trade. Because she’s a serious contender for medals at the world indoors and obviously for Rio.
“This is a team that has been selected on the basis that every athlete can realistically make their final, but also with an eye on their individual development looking towards the Olympics this year and the London 2017 World Championships.
“There have been some excellent performances during the indoor season and we are confident that many of those selected will be challenging for medals. British Athletics’ focus, as well as that of the individual athletes, is geared towards Rio in this Olympic year and the World Indoors is one of many stepping stones.”
The entire squad are expected to receive their formal invites today with the package including a carefully-worded contract asking signatories to disbar themselves from competing internationally for the UK again should they receive a lengthy doping ban in the future. Although it is understood that detailed clarification was demanded by a number of British athletes during talks with UKA officials in Glasgow last month, there is confidence the move will be embraced by all.
“There’s been good communication about what it is, but until it goes out and everyone has had the chance to read it, we don’t know,” Black added. “But we don’t see it as anything other than a natural admin process.”
For Twell and Moultrie in particular, the doping debate is fascinating. The three quickest times this winter over 3,000m have been set by Ethiopians at a time when their national anti-doping agency has signalled that a cluster of leading performers are under investigation. It has raised questions over whether UKA should be staging training camps for British athletes in the country while rumours persist that revelations are on their way.
“We always have our staff there,” Black said. “We are not so foolish that we just sit back and think ‘we’ve done it before so that’s what we always do’. We’ll look it at and pay attention to all the information.”