Lasswade AC’s Guy Learmonth provided a wonderful, nerve-wracking finish to an outstanding day for Scottish and Capital athletes when he harnessed the Hampden Roar to secure a place in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games 800 metres final tonight.
As in his heat drawn with the Olympic champion and world record-holder David Rudisha, the 22-year-old Loughborough University student managed to tuck in behind the Kenyan superstar and his fellow-countryman Ferguson Rotich as they approached the final bend in the first semi-final.
With Rudisha and Rotich opening up a gap coming into the straight, the chasing Learmonth drove clear of the rest of the field.
But as the line approached his stride shortened and the pursuing pack threatened to engulf him and rob him of the precious third place automatic qualifying spot.
He made it by just .02 sec from Jamaican Ricardo Cunningham (1:47.80), with Jeffrey Risely (Australia) a close-up fifth (1:47.82).
“I fed off the crowd in the final straight – that was the best run of my life,” said an emotional Learmonth, whose long-time coach is Henry Gray, the Eyemouth sports centre manager but who is also guided by renowned GB coach George Gandy.
“I was running for third spot after speaking to my coaches and they told me to forget about times and concentrate on position,” revealed Learmonth.
“I can’t wait for the final – I’ll do my very best for Scotland.”
Before that there will be the semi-finals of the women’s 800 metres with two Scots in action, Capital club-mates Lynsey Sharp and Emily Dudgeon, who both impressed in qualifying from their heats.
Six EAC members were in action in the stadium yesterday with Kirsty Yates rounding off the evening with a personal best of 16.42m in the shot in which she led briefly before finishing eighth and a joyful Jayne Nisbet rising to the occasion by clearing 1.85m in the high jump to qualify automatically for tomorrow’s final.
“I felt really confident coming into this,” said the 26-year-old Loughborough-based personal trainer.
But there was disappointment too when clubmate Emma Nuttall found a season’s outdoor best of 1.81m insufficient to progress while both Scottish long jumpers went out in the tricky windy conditions for the qualifying.
Sarah Warnock (EAC) had two no-jumps and a third round effort of 6.22m and Scottish record-holder Jade Nimmo (Falkirk) was no luckier with 6.23m.
European champion Sharp however looked majestic in the 800m, finishing second in her heat in 2:03.04, and, more surprisingly perhaps to some, but not to her coach Stuart Hogg, was joined by Dudgeon, who kept her cool and progressed from a potentially tough heat in third place (2:02.35), just behind young English hope Jess Judd.
The third Scottish 800 entry Laura Muir wisely decided not to run following her disappointing 1500m final.
Sharp was content to be towed round by renowned front runner, England’s Jenny Meadows,
“The first one is always the worst so it’s a case of getting it out of the way but it’s important to stick to your plan and get the job done – I’ve matured a lot since London (2012),” she said.
Dudgeon, left, a 21-year-old Cambridge University medical student, was amazed by the crowd. “I’ve had everyone cheering for me at the school sports but never something like this,” she said.
A World Junior finalist in 2012, she has the ability to reach another major final.
Edinburgh University student Ray Bobrownicki was ninth equal in the high jump final with 2.21m and was slightly disappointed: “If you’d said a few months ago – 2.21m in the final, in the evening – that’s what I set out to do but a height or two extra would have been really nice - the crowd were absolutely spectacular,” said the American-born recent British citizen, whose best of 2.28m would have won silver.
Victory went to the Canadian Derek Drouin with a leap of 2.31m. There were two Scottish Native records, from Helensburgh’s Angus McInroy in the discus, where he threw 57.28m for 11th qualifying spot for tonight’s final, and Dundee’s Eilish McColgan, who clocked 9:44.65 for sixth in the 3000m steeplechase in a race won by Purity Kirui in 9:30.96 in a Kenyan clean sweep.
Tonight the poster girl of Glasgow 2014, Eilidh Child, will aim to give the Hampden crowd the victory they crave perhaps above all others by winning 400m hurdles gold, although she will face serious competition from Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer.