Yet last night at the Emirates Arena, the 28 year old claimed a 3,000 metres silver at the European Indoor Championships which tasted sweet, a return on investments of patience, persistence and a will to push himself to the limit and beyond.
He needed every resource at the last, runner-up by a barely distinguishable three-thousands a second in a photo finish with long-time foe Henrik Ingebrigtsen. The pair had to bow to the victor. The Norwegian’s younger brother Jakob became the championships’ youngest-ever gold medallist at just 18, building on the legend created when he earned two outdoor continental crowns in Berlin last August.
That was a month to forget for O’Hare. Before this spring, the Scot has specialised almost exclusively in the 1,500m and the mile. Past outdoor and indoor European bronzes attest to his talent. But missing out on the 2016 Olympic final stung hugely and coming dead last in the following summer’s world championship finale in London was just as piercing.
Far removed from the fight for medals in the German capital and the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast posed a fundamental question. If not now, then when, or ever? “I was in a pretty dark place but if it wasn’t for my wife, my son, my parents, my siblings and my support team I would have given up for sure,” he revealed.
“I sat on a wall in Berlin with my mum and my dad and it was like ‘this is too hard, it is not worth it any more’. I had been gone from this point for three months away from my wife and son and I just thought it isn’t worth it.”
Contemplation followed with guidance from his coach Terrence Mahon and his wife Meredith. Grave disappointment. Tough to bear. But he said: “You get back into it, pick yourself up and go again.”
It is a difficult process that his training cohort Andy Butchart may have to endure after coming tenth, far short of expectations. “I ran like an ass,” the Scot declared. “A total dick. It’s not me at all. Races like that shouldn’t be raced like that. So, I obviously need to fix something as something’s broken.”
The teen Ingebrigtsen will, like Laura Muir, take a swing at a double in tonight’s 1,500m final where his opponents will include Glasgow’s own Neil Gourley. He will take some stopping, O’Hare forecast. “If I had any money to put on, I would. I think Neil Gourley has a chance of a medal. He’d have to do something wrong not to get one. But Jakob is an animal.”
There was no title hat-trick for Richard Kilty who was squeezed into fourth in the men’s 60m final as Slovakia’s Jan Volko bolted to gold in 6.60m. And Asha Philip could not repeat her women’s 60m win of 2017 with the British champion securing bronze by 1/1000th of a second from team-mate Kristal Awuah as Poland’s Ewa Swoboda zipped clear.
British team captain Guy Learmonth saw his hopes of emulating Tom McKean’s 800m victory from when these championships last came to Glasgow blow up in spectacular style when the Borderer crashed out in the semis.
Manoeuvring on the inside line, he ran out of room – and luck – almost upending rival Mark English in the process with Irishman forced to lodge, and win, an appeal to secure a spot in the final.
Head in hands, Learmonth – later disqualified by judges – could only watch disconsolately from the wall of the track as team-mate Jamie Webb progressed through. “I honestly can’t believe this has happened to me twice in a few weeks,” said the past finalist, who was forced to compete here with a broken finger. “It’s devastating. It’s not how I wanted this weekend to go. I hope there’s no damage. I got a few burn marks and my hand is pretty sore.”
It was smoother sailing for his female counterparts with Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, the runner-up in 2017, easing onwards with second place in her 800m semi and Mari Smith stealing third place in hers.
Elsewhere, Karsten Warholm equalled the European record of 45.05 sec in winning the 400m for Norway while Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski cleared 5.90m for pole vault gold.