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Golden girl's pursuit of Games place

Her family name is evocative of memories of Scottish athletics' greatest days, but Lynsey Sharp revealed yesterday that she had considered switching sports to follow her fabled father into a Scottish Commonwealth Games team.

'It's been a bit of a miracle,' but Lynsey Sharp is raring to go. Picture: SNS
'It's been a bit of a miracle,' but Lynsey Sharp is raring to go. Picture: SNS

Times have changed for athletics in Scotland since Cameron Sharp, along with fellow sprinters Allan Wells and Drew McMaster, exploded into the public consciousness in Edmonton.

Sharp's daughter surpassed his best performance in a European Championship when the 800 metres silver medal she won in Helsinki two years ago was upgraded to gold after Yelena Arzhakova, the race winner, was convicted of doping. Whether European or Commonwealth medals carry more prestige is debatable, but she knows that competing in Glasgow represents a very special chance, and not just because it is a home Games.

A keen football supporter, Sharp has visited Hampden Park since it has been overhauled and believes it may be better suited to athletics.

"People always complain that it's not the greatest football venue," Sharp observed. "The athletics community is just amazed by it, how good a job has been done, considering we've got a lack of facilities in Scotland. My mum said the SFA could be moving out in 2020, so maybe athletics could move in."

However, Sharp looked in danger of failing even to get to the start-line at the national stadium in her bid to match dad's gold medal-winning heroics at a Commonwealth Games and her main emotion on gaining selection is clearly relief.

"The last couple of weeks have been a lot better, now that I'm back racing. I didn't expect a personal best last weekend, although I knew I was in decent shape," she said.

"At the end of March, when I was supposed to be out in America, I was in hospital for a week. I remember sitting in the hospital bed, talking to my mum, counting the weeks left to the qualification deadline. I said to her: 'I don't know how I'm going to get from lying in a hospital bed to running the qualifying time'. It's been a bit of a miracle."

There was an upside to her lay-off in that it allowed her to work on other aspects of her physicality. "I'm so much stronger than I was two years ago, having worked hard in the gym while I wasn't able to run," Sharp explained. That included the work that helped open up another possible route to Games selection as she pounded out the miles on an exercise bike.

"I spoke to Eleanor Barker, a cyclist who has just been selected for the Welsh team," she said. "This was back in November and I actually asked her: 'Right, what cycling event do you think I could do at the Games?'.

"She told me I had a shot at Team Pursuit, and I honestly considered it. Genuinely. I remember saying that, if I couldn't run for the next few months, I would definitely consider trying to make the cycling team."

Thankfully, that option did not have to be exercised and Sharp is now part of a 58-strong group of track and field athletes who are aiming to improve on Scotland's dismal record when it comes to accruing medals on the biggest of Games stages in recent years.

History and form indicate that very few of them are realistic contenders, which only makes it all the more bizarre that this is another case of their own federation restricting the opportunities of Scottish competitors.

It seems that only the qualifying time set by Commonwealth Games Scotland is preventing Jamie Bowie from taking part in the individual 400 metres, as well as the 4x400m relay for which he has been selected. That, in turn, is at least partly down to the limited opportunities he has had to go after the necessary mark because of his relay commitments with both Scotland and Great Britain.

"There will be some people on that start-line [in the individual 400m] that I know I can beat," he said. "I'm disappointed, because I felt I could have made the step up to the individual standard, but I'm delighted to be a part of the team.

"At the same time, some people have just missed out on the qualifying standard by centimetres or by hundredths of a second. So I'm very fortunate in that I've got the relay."

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