CHRIS O'HARE hopes he is 24 hours away from another Tulsa triumph.
The 22-year-old middle-distance runner, who came through Edinburgh Athletics Club, is excelling on an athletics scholarship at the Oklahoma-based college and he travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas, tomorrow with high hopes of successfully defending the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) indoor mile title which he won in such spectacular fashion 12 months ago.
O'Hare may have been controversially omitted from the UK team for the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg but he is bang in form. He ran 3.52.98 at the Wanamaker Mile at the illustrious Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden last month to break David Strang's 1994 mark for the fastest time for a Scot indoors over 1500m.
That is also the second-fastest by any British athlete in history, behind Peter Elliott's time of 3.52.02 from a run in New Jersey in February 1990, making O'Hare the collegiate record holder and earning him the right to be top seed for this week's meeting. Lord Sebastian Coe, for one, is hugely impressed by his progress.
"That really is an impressive time from the young man – outdoors or indoors," said Coe. "It is particularly good for indoors and that bodes very well indeed for Chris and for Scottish athletics. That kind of thing can offer an awful lot of encouragement to others in Scotland who are following his progress from this side of the Atlantic."
Stephen Maguire, the director of coaching for scottishathletics, was similarly encouraged by O'Hare's successes. "I believe Chris can be very special," he said. "In fact, he already is because to win an NCAA Indoor title as he did last year and set a Collegiate Record for the mile – as he did recently in New York – is quite an achievement."
O'Hare, who has had his struggles with injury, will race only once or twice outdoors before returning to the UK for the world championship trials. "It is a bit crazy to think no Scot has ever run the mile faster indoors than me," he said. "The main goal for this year is to take home another National Championship back to Tulsa and make the final and compete at the World Championships in Moscow in the summer."
Then, of course, there is the chance to participate in a home Commonwealth Games. "I would say it is the main goal," O'Hare said recently. "I would say the goal now is about trying to get into the final and running my best at a major championships."