Yesterday’s press interviews at the announcement of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games athletics team took on a bit of a Mr & Mrs feel as 800m star Lynsey Sharp followed her 5000m runner boyfriend Andrew Butchart on the rotation to face reporter’s questions.
Butchart had already been quite adamant when asked who had made the first move at the start of the romance which blossomed earlier this year.
“She always asks me out. On her knees. It was her. Don’t listen to what she says,” said the 26-year-old from Dunblane with a Cheshire Cat grin.
Capital-born and bread Sharp would soon have the chance to put the record straight and was equally emphatic and responded: “He’s a liar! I think you know the real answer to that!”
The paramours are now targeting medals at April’s Commonwealth Games and could become Scotland’s answer to cyclists Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, the GB cycling couple who both powered to glory at the Rio Olympics.
“I hope so. I really hope that’s how it works out,” said Sharp, who famously won a dramatic silver in the women’s 800m at Glasgow 2014.
“His event is really strong in the Commonwealth as well, with the Canadians and Kenyans. But that would be the dream, to both medal and then go on to get medals at the European Championships in the summer as well.”
Butchart is a bit more coy about the prospect of their relationship becoming a talking point when the action gets under way in just over fourth months.
“I’m not really thinking about things like that,” he said. “Honestly, we just have a lot of fun together, that is what makes it special for us. Good banter.”
Late bloomer Butchart has rocketed to prominence after a stunning two years. He wasn’t involved in Glasgow but burst on to the British team for Rio, became a training partner with the legendary Sir Mo Farah and scored a stunning sixth on his Olympic debut before a creditable eighth in the London world championships this summer.
Coincidentally those were the placings that 27-year-old Sharp also finished at both those events, with both now viewing the Gold Coast as a potential tiebreaker.
“She obviously won a silver medal in the Commonwealths the last time but both of us are going there wanting to achieve a medal,” explained Butchart. “We will be disappointed if we don’t, but because we both finished sixth at the Olympics, and eighth in the worlds, this will kind of be the decider. After it we can say ‘I am better than you’ and that is important.”
Butchart was in Stirling at yesterday’s announcement fresh from a bronze at the Euro Cross event in Slovakia at the weekend.
“He got his first major medal at the weekend, so now the pressure is on for me,” said Sharp of their own personal battle.
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve medalled, so this year is the big one for me.”
Butchart said that being involved with a fellow athlete can provide mutual support but added that it was important to switch off and just enjoy being a normal couple.
“It is there when things like this happen – because it is a really big event. Today is massive for athletics, but as soon as it is finished we will go for lunch and talk about something else,” he said. “We are not talking every day about who is going to beat who in the next race, we are having fun and that is all that matters for us.”
Sharp agreed and said: “If you are having a bad day, the other person can cheer you up and they understand what you are going through. If you miss a split by half a second, mentally that can have an affect, but I know a person who doesn’t understand athletics thinks that is totally fine.
“It’s funny. Some days I have sessions that mean something to me, that I know are an indication of what shape I’ll be in, he’ll know I’ll be in a crap mood the whole morning till I get my session out the way.
“He will just leave me to it. I want to get the most out of that session, it means that much to me that I’m nervous about it. He understands that and won’t be constantly in my ear.”
All that being said, Butchart knows that when the real high tension of competition bites a bit of distance will be no bad thing.
“Probably not a good idea,” he said about them spending too much time together in the athletes village. “We will probably put each other off!
“I am quite good at being relaxed before races but I’m not sure Lynsey is.
“We will sleep separately and it is going to be individual totally. She has got her targets and I have got mine.”
The pair are about to relocate to San Diego to work with their coach Terrence Mahon warm weather training in America, a return home for indoor events and then, soon enough, the Commonwealth Games will be here.
“Spending some more time with Terrence is the kind of thing I think will make a lot of difference, especially leading into the Commonwealths,” said the daughter of sprinter and five-time Commonwealth medallist Cameron Sharp.
“With it being in April it’s difficult to get things right especially as I normally take about 20 races to get into shape. It’s a bit of a challenge. In terms of the training and the weather – it’s minus something here but it’s still 24C there so to be able to do speed work from now until April will make a massive difference hopefully.
“People have asked what we’ll be doing Christmas Day and I’m like ‘I don’t know, go to the beach?’ I had Christmas Day with my family on Sunday. Mum was a bit gutted I won’t be there for Christmas Day but it’s a sacrifice to get me in the best shape for April.”
Other Capital stars named in the squad wre Jake Wightman (1500m), Chris O’Hare (1500m), Guy Learmonth (800m), Kirsten McAslan (400m), Emma Nuttall (high jump) and Allan Smith (high jump).
Eilidh Doyle will compete for a third successive Commonwealth medal – she claimed silver in both 2010 and 2014 – in the 400m hurdles, while 2014 bronze medallist Mark Dry (hammer) is also included.