The 26-year-old enters the fray at Rio in today’s 800 metres heats with a fresh attitude and a renewed approach that has lifted a little of the load off her back and allowed her to run free. Necessary, she says, to keep most of her energies focused on the track while allowing some to be expended off it in the interests of keeping her sane.
“I didn’t do enough of it last year,” she says. “I was a bit uptight and so obsessed about getting my performance right. For example, I went to Wimbledon this year and I probably wouldn’t have done it last year. I always wanted to go so I went. I had to tell myself that athletics is one aspect of my life but it’s not my whole life.”
Her core advisers, who include her mother Carol and her coach Terrence Mahon, have worked to alleviate some of the strains. Exiting the world championships in Beijing last summer before the final arrived was a stress Sharp could dearly have done without. Her peak came two weeks after. Too much, too late. But a little perspective was prescribed for the 2012 European champion, to step back and smell the roses around her.
The best advice? “Most recently, it’s been to just enjoy it,” she says. “Because I started doing this because I absolutely loved it after trying other sports that I knew weren’t for me. You have to remember to enjoy the moment. Terrence, my coach, said to me: ‘There aren’t many jobs that beat this. You have to realise where you are and how lucky you are to do this – and just relax and enjoy it.’”
In her teenage years, Sharp, pictured, had to battle through injuries that so nearly cost her this agreeable career. Of late, she hasbeen injury-free, dividing her time between Loughborough and Mahon’s Boston base and building the extra durability she will need to survive three races in four days here to snare a medal.
“Getting another winter in helps,” she said. “I’m usually injured in the winter or something. I got a full winter in this year and last year and I’ve got more running in my legs and been consolidating. I’m not usually doing more mileage in a week but I’m able to do more volume in sessions.
“I’ve probably spent more time with Terrence, which has helped, and we’ve introduced a few more plyometric things and been able to do things I perhaps wasn’t able to do before. It’s just little things, not one massive change, like maturing as an athlete.”
It might not be enough to see off South Africa’s gold medal favourite Caster Semenya. But this time, Sharp feels, she will not be running blind, with her form in the build-up providing enough reassurance that she can be in the mix come Friday night.
“Last year was frustrating because I missed Paris and that’s where everyone ran their 1:57s but it clashed with trials,” she says. “That was frustrating not to be able to get a fast time in before Beijing but I’m going in now knowing I’m well under two minutes.”
Chilled, and ready to freeze the pack out.