Athletics: Sharp out to prove her selectors were right

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HER selection to Team GB was clouded by controversy but 
instead of getting caught up in the furore, Lynsey Sharp insists she feels no pressure whatsoever on the eve of her Olympics debut.

The 22-year-old was the sole 800m runner selected for the Games as the likes of Marilyn Okoro, Jenny Meadows and Emma Jackson were all overlooked, despite having all run faster times than Sharp in the selection window.

But the Edinburgh athlete impressed the selectors when, in the space of a week, she beat all her rivals minus the injured Meadows at the Olympic Trials in Birmingham and then followed it up with a silver medal showing at the European Championships.

Those two performances earned her spot in the squad for London and the recent law graduate from Edinburgh 
Napier University insists she will do all she can to repay 
the faith placed in her by the selectors.

“There is no pressure but there is the need for me to fulfil the confidence they showed in me when I was chosen,” she said. “My aim is to run faster than I ever have before and I am confident I can do that.

“In January if you had asked me if I thought I would make the team I would have said no. It was always going to be hard with so many girls in my event but I managed to win the trials and beat the girls who had run quicker than me.

“My selection was always 
going to be controversial as there were so many girls 
running for the same event but I won the trials and beat all three of them as well as another at the Europeans, where I got a silver medal.

“The sport is also about 
performing on the day when it matters and that is exactly what I did.

“I know the Olympics is a much higher standard than the Europeans but it was good to win a medal and I showed that I can perform at a championships and I set a PB as well.

“I am running well in training and running times I have never done before so I know I am in the best shape of my life.

“I hope to run faster than I ever have done before and see what round that can take me to. I would love to reach the semis and final but it will be so tough so I’m going to do my best.”

Sharp has certainly got the family pedigree to perform on the big stage, her father Cameron was a sprinter in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and a fellow European silver medallist while her mother Carol competed at a Commonwealth Games.

And the youngster admits she will be leaning on her family as much as possible for support and advice when the Games get under way.

“Times have changed quite a lot since my dad was at the 
Olympics but some things are still the same and he was talking to me about making sure I rest and don’t get carried away with the village,” she added.

“He told me to enjoy it as much as possible and rest well because he missed the second Games he could have gone to through injury. You never know what could happen so you have to make the most of it.”

Meanwhile, 400m runner Lee McConnell knows more than most about the importance of timing – now she’s hoping she can once more prove a master of it at London 2012.

McConnell, especially in her later years, has made a habit of leaving selection late after struggling for form in the early-season.

And by her own admission Olympic year has been a further case in point for her tardiness. McConnell readily accepts she will arrive in the Capital without the times she’d like to have under her belt. Indeed the Scot hasn’t run the Olympic A-standard qualification this year.

However, it has always been all right on the night for the 33-year-old in her lengthy career and she sees no reason why London will be any different. “I am in good shape although I haven’t raced well which has been disappointing,” she said.

“I am performing well in training but unfortunately I haven’t been able to deliver that on the track. I don’t know why this has been happening. At the start it was a mixture. I was getting bad pace judgement and horrendous weather conditions and then I think that kind of knocks your confidence.

“It has been quite frustrating not understanding what is going wrong in the races. But I think it is slowly getting there.

“I have been performing better since the European Championships in Helsinki and hopefully I will be able to continue to improve until the Olympics.

“I hope I hit my peak now just in time for the Olympics. I have done in the past so hopefully it will be the same again this time around.

“I think the home 
advantage will give me a boost and I don’t think that should be underestimated.”

n Bank of Scotland, proud 
supporter of Team GB and proud partner of the London 2012 
Olympic Games. Get closer to the Games at bankofscotland.co.uk/London2012