LYNSEY Sharp will finally receive her 2012 European Championship gold medal on Saturday, nine months after being upgraded from silver.
The 23-year-old 800m runner – second in Helsinki behind Russia’s Yelena Arzhakova, who was disqualified because of a doping offence last April – will be presented with the medal in front of a capacity crowd at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow International Match at the Emirates Arena.
“It will be an emotional afternoon, all the more so because so many friends and members of my family will be there, as well as 5,000 spectators,” Scotsman columnist Sharp said yesterday. “In Helsinki the medal ceremonies were done in the evening after the session, so just about the only people there were my mum, friends and team-mates like Meghan Beesley and Robbie Grabarz, and some Great Britain team officials. And of course there was nothing like 5,000 British athletics supporters in the stadium for my race anyway.
“This time my mum will be there again, along with my sister Carly and our dad, who has his own European Championships medal – a silver he won in the 200m in 1982. My grandfather will be there too, and my headmaster from school, Bryan Lewis, plus of course the capacity crowd. So it’s great being able to have the ceremony at home.”
Sharp was injured for most of last season, but will start competing again once the outdoor season begins, and is pleased she has this issue sorted out before she does so. “I’m pleased for myself, but also for my sport,” she continued. “Somebody was caught breaking the rules, so it’s only right that all the consequences of that should happen.
“Justice was done when Arzhakova was stripped of the medal. Now justice is also being seen to be done. When I was told last year I’d been upgraded from silver to gold, that affected my life. As well as being pleased about the fairness of it all, I’m glad the ceremony is being done now, at a meeting where I’m not competing.
“It’s good to get the whole issue resolved at this stage of the year, because it’s been hanging over me for a while. And I think if I was running at a meeting where I knew I was going to have a medal ceremony, the emotion might have affected my performance.”
Currently in South Africa at a British Athletics training camp, Sharp will only get back to Glasgow a few hours before the match at the Emirates, in which a Scotland team will take on Great Britain & Northern Ireland, the United States and a Commonwealth Select. Besides being European champion, she was also promoted from bronze to silver in the 2011 European Under-23 Championships as a consequence of Arzhakova’s suspension.
“When I was first told about my upgrade, my reaction to the news was a mixture of disappointment, satisfaction and elation,” she added. “I was disappointed that another athlete has been discovered breaking the rules and that I was denied the chance to hear my national anthem played in the stadium. But I’m pleased that the system is working, that the athlete in question has been caught.
“It will be a very special moment for me, my family and my support team when I’m presented with my European medal at the Glasgow International Match. It will be even more special that I will be receiving it on home soil, in front of a home crowd. It’s a great way to start 2014 and with my injury rehab going well, I’m aiming to be fully fit for the Commonwealth Games in July and to defend my European title in Zurich.”
Scottish Athletics chief executive Nigel Holl explained that a lot of diplomatic effort had been required to get to the stage where the medal can at last be presented. “It has taken a lot of lobbying with European Athletics by British Athletics for this to happen, and it is very important there is a formal recognition of a stunning achievement by Lynsey,” he said.
“We’ve been involved in the process and we’re delighted for her after a lengthy wait. Hopefully Saturday will make up in some way for being denied the moment of glory in Helsinki back in 2012. It is great for the sport in Scotland when someone who came through the ranks of one or our clubs, in this case Edinburgh AC, performs so well at elite level and it definitely acts as inspiration for youngsters in track and field and indeed all strands of the sport.”
Saturday’s match will be televised live on the BBC from 1.45pm to 4.30pm. The time of the medal ceremony has yet to be confirmed.