Chris O’Hare will start his bid for world championship glory in Beijing tomorrow night, but the Capital’s 1500 metres star has claimed he wouldn’t have pushed so hard to reach the top if he hadn’t found it tough going when starting out at Meadowbank.
It seems a long time ago now since the 24-year-old from West Linton wasn’t mixing it with the best of the best after claiming bronze at last summer’s European Championships in Zurich prior to matching the feat indoors in March in Prague.
But before O’Hare stepped up a gear before swapping the Lothians for Oklahoma and a stint at the University of Tulsa, he was stuck in the middle of the pack. The Great Britain international was only fourth in the Scottish Championships at Under-15 level and again missed out on the medals at the schools championships two years later.
And although he picked up a clutch of silvers, it took until he hit 17 to start stealing a pot of golds, leaving Edinburgh AC’s teenage prospect with a hungry streak he’s yet to lose.
“The fact I was never really on the top of the podium when I was younger gave me the fight and the attitude I have now,” he said. “If I’d won when I was younger, I don’t think the fight would have been as aggressive or if I’d have treated all this as importantly.
“I’ve made sacrifices. Going to America is a testament to how much I wanted it. I’m not sure that would have been the case had I won when I was in my teens but people in the club and elsewhere around Meadowbank gave me a push.”
A cheerleading crew of his parents and brother have travelled out to China to roar him on towards Sunday’s final – with his club-mates set to follow his every move from back in Edinburgh.
His base is now in Boston, where he’s set up home with wife-to-be Meredith and where he trains under his coach Terrence Mahon, who also looks after fellow Capital product Lynsey Sharp. But O’Hare claims both the pair owe a lot to their grounding back home.
“I’m so grateful for the avenue to compete as a youngster,” he said. “The club nature of sport in the UK is great and I don’t think they get enough credit for what has happened to the likes of me and Lynsey.
“It was easy to see me coming into Edinburgh Athletic Club, or what it was called then, and how they provided me with great opportunities. I can’t remember how many athletes from the club were in Glasgow last year, but it was a fair group and that shows how great an avenue it was to get kids out and running.”
Sharp, the 2012 European champion, starts her quest for the rostrum in the 800 metres in tonight’s heats along side GB&NI team-mates Jenny Meadows and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke.
It’s been an up and down build-up for the 25-year-old after giving Mahon the green light to ensure she hits her peak in Beijing, but the UK champion, who overcame injury in her teens, claims the backing of parents Cameron and Carol – both Scotland internationals in their prime – has kept her head up and focused on landing a first global medal.
“I’m lucky that had parents involved in the sport but doing the thing I love as a job – what was once a hobby as a job,” she said. “And I’ve also had years I’ve not been able to do it and it’s been taken away from me with injury. That’s what makes you so hungry to come back as you don’t realise how much you enjoy something until it’s taken away from you.”
Meanwhile, Pitreavie’s Eilidh Child survived a scare to move into tomorrow’s 400m hurdles final with the European champion advancing as the fastest-loser after coming third in her semi-final. “That’s why you have to be so clinical over the last hurdles,” she said. “Because every little detail matters. Because I backed off and gave them extra ground.”
Laura Muir will go for glory in this afternoon’s 1500m final.