NEVER write me off. That was the message from Lynsey Sharp yesterday as she reclaimed her British 800 metres title in sensational style. Eilidh Child won the 400m hurdles, and Allan Smith took the high jump to make it a trio of Scottish triumphs on the final day of the Sainsbury’s British Championships – but it was Sharp who produced the outstanding performance of the day.
Sharp, the champion in Olympic year, missed almost the entire 2013 season because of injury, and only weeks ago was still chasing a Commonwealth Games qualifying time.
Her hopes of defending the European title she won in 2012 had been put on hold, but now she has the times for Glasgow and for the European Championships and has firmly re-established herself as one of the best big-race performers in the sport.
Sharp believes that her ability – and her injury troubles – have been underestimated in some sections of track and field, and after winning said she had been fired up by watching the European Team Championships in Germany last weekend.
“I probably shouldn’t say it but, last week at the team champs, they were talking about Jenny and Jess’s injuries – how they’d come back from injury – and completely ignored me,” she said, referring to rivals Jenny Meadows and Jessica Judd.
“That just kind of put fuel on the fire. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I mean, 2012 meant so much to me, winning here – but this almost means more. I’ve had the most horrific year, so it’s amazing.”
Sharp’s participation was in doubt last week because of a cough, and she consulted British Athletics performance director Neil Black about taking part. “I’ve not had the ideal week,” she said. “I met with Neil on Wednesday and told him I didn’t know whether to run. I would never want to go and put myself on the line if I can’t do what I know what I’m capable of doing.
“He said he understood, left it up to me – but luckily I felt better each day. After last year, I really wanted to be out here and race.
“I’ve had a cough all week and, after 200 metres, I was coughing. I was thinking: ‘Oh no, this is awful. Just don’t lose contact.’ I just wanted it so badly. It meant so much to me. I was so determined.”
Meadows took the race out as expected, and Sharp sat in on the shoulder of Judd, the only Briton to run faster than her this season. Judd went to the front with around 300m to go, and at that point it looked like a race between her and the Scot, but when Sharp accelerated around the top of the bend neither Judd nor anyone else was able to stay with her.
Sharp crossed the line in 2mins 01.40sec, with Alison Leonard second in 2:01.83 and Meadows third in 2:02.18. Judd faded to fourth, while Scots Emily Dudgeon and Jenny Tan were seventh and eighth.
As she crossed the finish line, the clock stopped at just under two minutes, which would have been a personal best. But, as had happened on Saturday, the clock was out – fortunately no more than a mild and very temporary disappointment. “When I saw the time, I was thinking: ‘Really?’ I was dying massively coming down the home straight, so I was thinking that maybe it might have been right,” she said. “For some reason I’m not that bothered, because the victory meant more to me. The time would have been a bonus. I still think I can go faster.”
Meanwhile, Child claimed her first British title after three successive silver medals, and now has her sights set on a similar trade-up at the Commonwealth Games after coming second in Delhi four years ago.
In the absence of her injured English rival Perri Shakes-Drayton, the 27-year-old Scot was in the unusual position of being the race favourite yesterday, especially after her commanding form in the semi-finals.
She justified her status in style, easing off down the home straight yet still finishing five or six metres clear of England’s Meghan Beesley. Child clocked 55.58sec ahead of Beesley’s 56.12, while Hayley McLean was third in a personal-best 56.43.
“I was quite nervous, because it was the first time going into that race as favourite,” Child said. “It was so windy as well. But I’m just delighted to have got the win.”
A national title would normally justify a little time for celebration, but Child has virtually no time to relax with Hampden just a few weeks away.
In any case, she has decided that resisting all temptation to ease off could be the best way to cope with doubling up at the Commonwealth Games then the European Championships
“I’m going to do the Glasgow Diamond League. That’s my only race between now and the Games – it’s crazy to think I’ve now only got one race left before the Games. It would mean the world to me to get on the podium in Glasgow, so I’m really looking forward to the summer ahead.
“The best thing to do is to keep on a roll. After the Commonwealths I can’t switch off if the Euros are still to come. Then it’ll be one massive hangover after that!”
Allan Smith claimed the high-jump title on countback after he and England’s Chris Baker both cleared 2m 24cm.
His namesake David was sixth with 2.15, the same height as fellow Scot Ray Bobrownicki, for whom it was a personal best.
Like Child, Smith has little time to celebrate: “I’ve come off the back of a good block of training, but I’m still chasing the European Championships qualifying standard,” he said. “I fly off to Germany on Wednesday to try again,” he said.
Sarah Warnock took third in the long jump with a personal best of 6.42m, and there was also a personal best for Nick Percy in the discus.