LYNSEY Sharp timed her dash for the line almost to perfection but is still likely to miss the Olympics despite winning silver at the European Championships last night. Just days after her surprise 800m victory at the trials in Birmingham, Sharp found herself in her first major final in Helsinki.
She seemed out of contention after being badly bumped on the first lap and was 20 metres off the medals coming down the home straight. But as others tired, she surged through the field, crossing the line in a new 2:00.52 personal best to take second, as Yelena Arzhakova continued Russian domination of the event to take gold.
No-one could argue that Sharp doesn’t fulfil the selectors’ criteria of ‘current form’ after the last week. But, unfortunately, her times are just not quick enough. Marilyn Okoro, Emma Jackson and former world medallist Jenny Meadows have all achieved the A standard qualifying time in the selection window, even if major doubts persist about the latter two’s fitness.
It seems rough justice on Sharp, who is clearly a fast-improving athlete who can cope with pressure situations, in stark contrast to Okoro, whose crazy tactics continue to frustrate, underlined by her woeful showing in Birmingham last weekend.
And if she’d been competing in the US trials this week, where the first three past the post in the trials qualify, the in-form 21-year old would have booked her place already. “I’m totally speechless, it still hasn’t sunk in,” insisted Sharp. “I came into this and I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to do the time. I’m so happy with the silver, I just never expected it.
“Later on I will probably be a bit frustrated at getting a PB and being so close to the A standard though. I know it’s there, the time is definitely in me and I’m so close to it. I think, come the Games, I would be in the best form of my life, so that’s frustrating.
“This is the start of my career. If was ten years older, I would be more worried and think this was my last chance but, there’s Rio if London doesn’t come for me.”
Meanwhile, Lee McConnell tried to accentuate the positives after failing to make an impression on the medals at the European Championships in Helsinki.
It’s a decade since her breakthrough bronze in the event in Munich but this time she settled for fifth in a time of 52.20 seconds, 0.65 of a second slower than her Olympic selection standard target.
It means the two-time Olympian will now likely to focus her ambitions on the relay, in which she is a two-time world bronze medallist. “I am a bit disappointed and frustrated because I felt that I had a little bit more to give,” she insisted. Robbie Grabarz insisted he is still not surprised by his remarkable transformation into an Olympic contender after kickstarting a superb night for Britain at the European Championships.
Forty eight hours after Mo Farah retained his 5,000 metres title in Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, Grabarz claimed the first major medal of his career with gold in the high jump.
Rhys Williams also took gold and effectively sealed his place in London with victory in the 400m hurdles.
Grabarz and Lithuania’s Raivydas Stanys both cleared 2.31m, but Grabarz took gold on countback by virtue of clearing both of his previous heights at the first attempt.
The 24-year-old from Cambridgeshire lost his National Lottery funding at the end of last year for not reaching performance targets, failing to make the World Championships in Daegu and finishing a lowly 23rd in qualifying at the European Indoors.
However, a few harsh words from coach Fuzz Ahmed and a look at his empty bank balance helped Grabarz refocus on athletics and he is ranked second in the world this year after a personal best of 2.36m in New York earlier this month.
“I’m still not surprised. It’s just another target to tick off the list,” said Grabarz. “It’s a solid performance, the one I was aiming for. I told the press I was looking for the title and it’s nice to back up your words when it comes to it. I wanted to put pressure on myself beforehand because it’s only going to get worse heading into London. If I can apply some pressure to myself and almost make it harder work for me here, it’s going to help me in the Games.”
In stark contrast, team-mate Samson Oni labelled his own performance “a disgrace” after three failures at 2.20m, his first height.
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