FOR Lynsey Sharp, it was not quite as good as it gets.
The bold, all-guns-blazing run that took the Edinburgh AC athlete to a lifetime best and Scottish record in the women's 800m final at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich last Saturday was not quite good enough to retain her title.
Still, the lingering pang of disappointment that the Belarussian Marina Arzamasova swept past with 80m to go in the Letzigrund Stadium will serve to add motivational grist to the mill when Sharp turns her mind to the future - starting with the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham on Sunday.
Loading article content
The field for the women's 800m there will include Eunice Sum, the Kenyan who beat Sharp to Commonwealth Games gold at Hampden Park three weeks ago and Ajee Wilson, the 20-year-old American who stands at the top of the world rankings in 2014. Wilson happens to hail from Neptune, New Jersey, the home town of Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito.
The true measure of Sharp's half-miling ability will come when she steps up from Commonwealth and European championship racing to the global test of the World Championships in Beijing next summer, and the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. It will surely be of long-term benefit, however, that she will approach the challenge with added hunger in her belly.
"Yeah, exactly," concurred Sharp. "I think one of the reasons I've been running so well this summer is because I've been running angry the whole year. For a lot of the time it's been about having to have the two operations because of my foot problems. In the 800m final in Zurich, it was more about having had the Russian [Yelena Arzhakova, retrospectively disqualified for a doping offence] in front of me in the 2012 final in Helsinki.
"So, yeah, I think there are definitely things that will still make me hungry and angry; that will make me want more next year and further down the line."
It bodes well too that Sharp has achieved so much this summer - Commonwealth and European silver, Scottish record - after so little preparation. After the two operations on her troublesome Achilles, the 24-year-old law graduate only had four months in which to lay the foundations for two major championship campaigns.
"It will be nice to get my foot fixed at the end of the season and then get a good solid winter in," said Sharp. "But I think it's important not to change too much from what I did last year, because cross-training seemed to work for me. It just shows that I don't have to do all the miles.
"I'm definitely more of a speed-based than endurance-based 800m runner. I need to just work out how to find the best balance between doing all of the running that I need to and staying healthy."
In the meantime, Sharp has a season to finish off. After Birmingham, she has the Ivo Van Damme Memorial Meeting in Brussels on September 5 and her top-two finish in Zurich has earned her a spot in the European team for the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakesh on September 13-14.
Sharp's runner-up time in Zurich, 1min 58.80sec, eclipsed Susan Scott's eight-year-old Scottish record and raised her to ninth in the world rankings. Wilson clocked the fastest time in the world this year, 1:57.67, in beating Sum in the Monaco Diamond League meeting a month ago. It is the Kenyan's only defeat in 14 races this year.
"It doesn't feel right to me that I've run so fast in 2014," confessed Sharp. "It's a million miles away from where I thought I would be. My aim was to run 2:02 and qualify for the Games.
"At the start of the season I ran 2:06 and I thought my world was over. So to run 1:58.80 and come away with two major championship medals is far more than I could have wished for. I was disappointed at being caught in the 800m final in Zurich but I need to realise how much progress I've made this year."