Athletics: Learmonth hungry for Hampden after victory

GUY Learmonth has never even set foot inside Hampden. But, while he’s in line for the Olympic trials in just over a fortnight in Birmingham, Glasgow 2014 is already very much on his mind.

The national football stadium will be transformed into a state-of-the-art athletics arena as the Commonwealth Games comes to Scotland for the first time since 1986. And Learmonth wants to make the Hampden track his home by appearing a number of times during the 11-day competition.

He arrived at Scotstoun Stadium at the weekend as Scotland’s top-ranked 800m runner – and left it with the 400m Scottish Senior title after posting two personal bests on consecutive days in the one-lap race.

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“I’ve never been to Hampden,” said the 20-year-old, who hails from Eyemouth in Berwickshire. “I grew up in Eyemouth and now I am based in Loughborough. I think I will need to make the effort to get to a Scotland game at some point over the next couple of years to savour the national stadium atmosphere.

“But my main Hampden goal is Glasgow 2014. I want to be there for three rounds of the 800m and maybe the 4 x 400m relays as well. I was delighted to win the 400m Scottish title on Sunday and pleased to get PBs on both days.

“Conditions weren’t great but the final was a good race – Jay Younger and Anthony Young were there pushing me on. That’s me at 48 seconds dead for the 400 and hopefully I will get quicker in the 800m, too.”

Learmonth clocked 48.18 on Saturday and cut that to 48.00 in the final to win from Edinburgh AC youngster Younger.

It was Learmonth’s fourth win in his last four races over a fortnight, with the man who broke the Scottish Junior record at 800m on nine occasions still content to wear his lucky socks – two different colours – every time he takes to the track.

He will be back in the 800m on Thursday night in Oslo for a high-class meeting that will also feature steeplechaser Eilish McColgan – chasing an Olympic qualifying time – and Dave Bishop, who has the B standard in 1500m.

Learmonth has the European Championship standard with that GB selection to be announced on 18 June, four days before the Olympic trials in Birmingham on 22-24 June.

“I’m heading to Oslo this week for the Diamond League meeting,” he added. “They have the dream mile and the 1500m, I believe, so the 800m is on the pre-programme but it is a great meet to be involved in. There will be quick guys there and maybe I can get down to 1.45 or 1.46 and really push on for the Olympic trials.

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“I’m only 20 at the moment so there’s plenty of time and your goal has to be improving your times.

“I set my PB in Oslo a couple of weeks ago [1.47.65] and that’s two in 24 hours over 400m so that is the kind of progress that you target.”

Two of Scotland’s best 400m runners – Jamie Bowie and Kris Robertson – elected to miss the National Championships and race in Poland instead, where their coach is based. The decision paid off, to an extent, as each posted a season’s-best with Bowie at 47.14 and Robertson at 47.25.

But Learmonth, a member of the 41-strong Scottishathletics Commonwealth Games squad, insisted: “I said last week that I felt it was a bit of payback to Scottishathletics to compete in the National Champs.

“I’m glad I did now and I’ve got a gold medal to add to an indoor title at 800m this year. That kind of success is important to me.”

Meanwhile, other athletes who didn’t attend Scotstoun found fields and conditions elsewhere did help performances.

Lee McConnell set an Olympic B standard of 52.31 in the 400m in Poland and is now the third-ranked Brit in the event this year. The Scottish star is aiming for a third successive Olympic appearance and has an eye on the individual race as well as the relays, where she has so many championship medals.

Gemma Nicol ran a PB in the same 400m race at 53.40 with her last run close to that time back in 2006.

Eilidh Child, who set a new Scottish record and Olympic A standard in Geneva last Saturday, is in action again in Paris tonight.

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