Capital ace Lynsey Sharp can book her Olympic ticket this weekend and then get ready to hunt down her Rio rivals, Scottish Athletics supremo Rodger Harkins claimed today.
The 2012 European 800m champion is among more than a dozen Scots who will hope to seal their place in the British team for the Games when the three-day UK trials start in Birmingham tonight.
Sharp is one of the athletes with two qualifying standards and can guarantee selection with a top-two placing in their event, so her fate is in her own hands.
Currently ranked seventh in the world, the 25-year-old will surely have to lower her personal best of 1:57.71 to crack the top three in Rio where her long-time South African rival Caster Semenya will doubtless start as an odds-on favourite for gold.
But Sharp’s failure to reach the 800m final of last year’s world championships when many tipped her for a medal will surely stand her in good stead, Harkins insists.
“There definitely was a huge learning curve for Lynsey,” he said. “She was in great shape. She broke the Scottish record shortly after that so she definitely was in fantastic shape. It’s sometimes difficult to do your learning in the public eye but she’ll take that on board and ensure that never happens again. It was a harsh lesson but I’m sure she’ll have learnt from it.”
Ditto, he claims, for Edinburgh AC club-mate Chris O’Hare who has bounced back from his own setback at the World Championships in Beijing to re-affirm himself as a potential Olympic 1500m finalist.
He has jetted back from his base in Boston, US, to cement his place but it is going to be his ability to get in the thick of any race that will be his best asset.
“That’s going to be Chris’s focus,” Harkins underlined. “It’s a hard event to get a global medal in. If you have races that tactically suit you – and because he’s in America, where he races a lot indoors, you can hone that skill. He’s been practising it an awful lot and if the race goes the right way for him, he’ll get what he wants out of it.”
O’Hare will not be short of local foes for company amid the middle-distance production line at Edinburgh AC. Jake Wightman, who has earned the qualifying time for next month’s European Championships, will look for the Olympic standard he needs to get himself into the frame.
“Jake is in a hot event,” Harkins declared. “He’s had a load of races around 3:40 in a ten-day period. He knows he’s in good shape but he’s just missed the Olympic qualifier. I’d like to see him get it. I think he will this weekend and it would still give him enough time before the final selections. He’s gone through that learning process. Now it’s time for him to put it into practice.”
Wightman’s successor as European junior champion, Josh Kerr, has also returned from his freshman year at the University of New Mexico to test himself out ahead of next month’s world junior championships in Poland.
“He probably surprised some people getting into the NCAA Final,” said Harkins, who guided Lee McConnell to world and European medals. “They’ll have gone: ‘Josh Kerr, who is that?’ but he’s a tried and tested athlete. We saw that at the Europeans last summer and he could be gaining that race experience in the sane way Chris did.
“It will be good for him to come back and test himself now against athletes here in the UK. He won’t be afraid of them because, from being in America, you always have to be competitive.”
• East Lothian teenager Maria Lyle has been confirmed in the first wave of athletics chosen for September’s Paralympic Games. The 16-year-old from Dunbar, who retained her European T35 100 and 200m titles in Italy last week, joins 12 other world medallists in the initial UK squad.