Athletics: Sharp faces uphill task to qualify for London 2012 from Helsinki heats

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Lynsey Sharp (Edinburgh AC) arrived in Finland last night still not sure of the quality of the opposition or what her tactics will be in tomorrow’s semi-finals of the women’s 800 metres in the European Championships in Helsinki.

The 21-year-old showed by the maturity of her victory in last Saturday’s UK Championship and Olympic Trials that she need fear no one in a tight finish.

The trail of distinguished names in her wake, including three fellow Brits who have broken two minutes, Marilyn Okoro, Jemma Simpson and Emma Jackson, as she came from at least 15 metres down in the middle of the back straight on the second lap, is testimony to that.

But, as Britain’s Director of Coaching Charles van Commenee insisted yesterday, this week’s events are not about medals, they are all about qualifying for London 2012 and Sharp has one of the hardest tasks of all. She needs to improve her season’s best by well over a second from 2:01:12 to 1:59.90, the A standard set by UK Athletics.

Two Russian sub-two minute runners are entered and if either of them was in Sharp’s heat and decided to cut out the pace it might suit her to follow and go for her time. A championship is not ideal – a paced race such as the BMC Grand Prix series might have been better if only the weather could have been guaranteed but that has been against fast times all season.

Jemma Simpson and last year’s British No. 1 Jenny Meadows are also in Helsinki though only one could be in Sharp’s semi-final.