WHILE one Scottish athlete gave her chances of Olympic selection a huge boost at the Aviva Trials here yesterday, a significant question mark grew over the hopes of another.
Lynsey Sharp enjoyed a magnificent victory in the final of the 800 metres and now only needs to run an A standard time at this week’s European Championships to ensure a place in the Great Britain team for London. But Steph Twell pulled out of the trials and is a doubt for those championships in Helsinki citing a foot injury and, although it is said to be little more than a niggle, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is running out of time to rediscover her best form.
Sharp held her nerve in the first lap when Marilyn Okoro, one of two finalists already with an A standard, broke away and opened a ten-metre gap. She stayed calm, too, when two others raced ahead of her with 200m to go to close Okoro down.
That composure paid off in the last 60m, as she raced clear to win in 2min 01.72sec. Jemma Simpson, the other finalist with an A standard, was second, while Sharp’s Edinburgh team-mate Emily Dudgeon came fourth. Okoro was fifth.
The winning time is still some way off the 1:59.90 Sharp needs to be sure of Olympic selection but, in warmer conditions against a higher-calibre field in Finland, she could just do it. Even if the 21-year-old law graduate comes up short, she could have done enough to be given a discretionary place when the team is announced on Monday week.
“One of the last things I said to my coach was: ‘What do I do if someone goes off hard at the start?’” Sharp said. “He told me not to panic and just stay in the following group, which I did.
“I’m very happy. I didn’t get the A standard, but I thought it wouldn’t be that kind of race because of the conditions and stuff. I still have it in me to get the time. I wasn’t thinking about the time, just about the racing. Hopefully the Euros will go well.”
Twell’s original plan had been to double up in the Olympics at the 1500m and 5000m, and she already has the qualifying time in the latter event. Having missed the trials, though, she may not have another opportunity to qualify over 1500, and will need to rely on the selectors’ discretion in the 5000.
In the 400m, Lee McConnell, who will be in the Olympic relay squad, came third behind Christine Ohuruogu and Shana Cox, both of whom have now qualified for the team. McConnell could still be selected for the individual 400m.
“I have to have a word with the head coach and selectors and see what’s required to get into the team,” McConnell said. “That’ll probably dictate what I have to do out in Helsinki. I finished third, so I’ve still got a chance, but I’ll have to wait for the final decision. There is still hope.”
Two other Scots claimed third places – Kirsty Law in the discus and Chris O’Hare in the 1500m, won by Andrew Baddeley after Mo Farah opted not to run the final.
And Eilidh Child looks sure to add to the medal haul after making it seven wins in a row this year in the 400m hurdles, comfortably winning her heat in 55.83 to qualify by right for today’s final. The Scottish record of 54.96 that the Pitreavie athlete set earlier this year is inside the A standard, meaning she only has to finish in the top two in the final to book her place in the team for the Olympics.
“I felt good,” she said. “I went out to get my stride pattern right, because I’ve changed it, and I could ease a bit coming into the home straight, so it’s all right. I’m happy with that. The trouble with hurdles is you can’t take it slow, you have to run hard.
“It’s good to get to the final. Top two I’m quite confident of, but you can’t underestimate Perri.”
The Perri in question – Shakes-Drayton – won her heat in 57.87. Although the Londoner’s personal best of 54.18 is considerably faster than Child’s, the Scot has had a clear edge so far this season. Whatever happens today, however, both look sure to be in the team, not only in their main event but also as members of the 4x400 relay squad alongside McConnell.
A sensational men’s 100m saw veteran Dwain Chambers pull off a shock victory over teenager Adam Gemili. With a qualifying time already in the bag, Gemili’s second place means he is guaranteed a place in London. Chambers, meanwhile, ran a season’s best of 10.25 and is still chasing the A time of 10.18.
Loughborough student Guy Learmonth is through to the 800m final after a commanding win in his heat. With only the first home sure of reaching the final, the Scottish junior record-holder remained calmly in the top three throughout before breaking clear of the field 80m from home.
The 1500m was won by Andrew Baddeley, Mo Farah having pulled out of the final after agreeing with his coach that he concentrate on his defence of his 5000m title at the European Championships in Helsinki this week. Farah, who won his 1500m heat with something to spare on Friday night, is already eligible to be selected for both the 5000m and 10,000m at the Olympics, and was always only running the shorter event here to sharpen up his speed. Scot Chris O’Hare came third.
Another Briton already assured of selection for London, Jessica Ennis, got her weekend off to an excellent start with wins in both the high jump and the 100m hurdles. Ennis, the current world No.1 in the heptathlon, will compete today in a further two events – the 200m and the long jump.
With five men having an A standard, the 400m hurdles always looked like being one of the most keenly contested events of the weekend, and so it proved. World champion Dai Greene stayed just ahead of the pack to take the title, and his training partner Jack Green came through with a late run to finish second.