Try telling Capital athletics star Lynsey Sharp how fickle fate can be.
The Edinburgh-born athlete’s curriculum vitae is a catalogue of on-off years with successes followed by injury-enforced periods of inactivity.
However, with the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games just four months away, there is encouraging news that Scotland’s world-class 800 metres runner and 2012 European champion is emerging from her latest lay-off with cautious optimism, though her first clash with woman-of-the-moment Laura Muir may have to wait until the British Championships in Birmingham in June.
First on the 23-year-old Edinburgh Athletic Club member’s agenda is securing selection for Hampden Park and record the second of two mandatory Glasgow 2014 qualifying standards by running under 2:02.80, a relatively straightforward target for someone of her calibre.
In a brief visit to the USA in April 2013, Sharp achieved the first of the required times when she ran 2:02.63 at the Mount SAC Relays at Walnut, California, and later this month she will return to USA, although this time to Florida, to pick up the pieces of her stop-start career – first in Orlando where she will link up with some former training partners, and later at a British Athletics training camp at Daytona Park.
A foot injury in training last May resulted in surgery in September after the loss of the entire British track season.
“I’ve been killing myself every day on the bike and doing loads of gym stuff,” Sharp said in an exclusive interview with the Evening News. “I got back on the track last December and I’ve got back running really well. It’s surprised me, so maybe it’s been a blessing in disguise as I’ve been able to work on my basic speed and do loads of power work.
“Yes, I’ve been through it all before, and over the years there have been some very low points I can tell you,” added the Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medallist in 2008, who nearly quit the sport during the following two years and was in no shape to make the senior team for the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Fit again in 2011, she took bronze in the European under-23 Championships and went close to breaking the two minute “barrier” with a personal best of 2.00.65.
Nothing seemed surer than that she would go on the following season to further success and indeed as the 2012 season unfolded, Sharp reeled off an amazing stream of nine races under two minutes two seconds as she chased the British automatic selection A qualifying standard for the London Olympics of 1:59.80.
“I just needed a breakthrough,” explained the Napier University Honours Law graduate, who toured Europe for competition, often accompanied by her mother Carol, herself a former British international 800 metres runner.
However, the “barrier” remained and Sharp, with only the B standard of sub 2:01.30, gave the selectors a major headache by winning the British Trial in Birmingham in 2:01.72, with a trademark late sprint ahead of three athletes who had secured the A standard, a performance she still believes is the one she is most proud of.
To their credit, the selectors bravely solved the dilemma by making the Scot their sole choice, though the decision incurred the wrath of several on social media sites and made life unpleasant for the Sharp at some subsequent competitions.
Had she then reached the 800 metres final at London 2012, the snipers might have been silenced, but her exit in the semi-finals in seventh place left her with a point still to prove.
Redemption of a sort came months later when the former Mary Erskine pupil, a British under-15 champion in 2004 with a pedigree to match – her father Cameron was the 1982 European 200 metres silver medallist – heard that she had actually struck gold in the European Championships in Helsinki the previous June, the Russian Yelena Arzhakova who had crossed the line first having been disqualified for a doping offence.
Even then, it took nearly a year more for Sharp to be awarded her winner’s medal, this ceremony being performed during the Sainsbury’s Indoor International at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena last January.
“I’m in a much better position now (than in 2012) – I don’t need to be fast yet as there’s plenty of time before July/August,” declared Sharp.
“I’ve been quite lucky in a way – it’s been pretty quiet and I’ve managed to avoid the hype as it builds up [for Glasgow], but it’s also made me more hungry as I watch what’s going on,” she added, referring to Glasgow University vet student Muir’s spectacular progress during the recent indoor season.
Coached by American Terence Mahon and still based at Loughborough, where her training is supervised by UK sprints coach Rana Reider, Sharp has an impressive group of training partners, including sub-45 secs 400 metres ace Martyn Rooney, sprinter Desiree Henry and UK long jump number one Shara Proctor.
“I may run a couple of 400 metres early doors to put down a marker if I’m there (in Glasgow) for the 800 as I hope to be, then I want to be in the mix for the 4 x 400 metres squad as well,” said Sharp, whose best for the 400 from the blocks is 54.74 secs.
And as for her first two-lap outing, it may not be until she returns to the UK in May when she hopes to put to bed the other qualifier with the minimum of fuss.
“I’m a work in progress,” she laughed.