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Lynsey Sharp has grown strong during a journey beset by adversity

IT was Robert Louis Stevenson who perhaps expressed it best: "to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive". 

 Lynsey Sharp reacts after winning silver in last night's 800 metres at Hampden Park. Picture: Nick Ponty
Lynsey Sharp reacts after winning silver in last night's 800 metres at Hampden Park. Picture: Nick Ponty

During these 2014 Games, and the London Olympics, talk is all about the journey, not the destination.

So it was last night for Lynsey Sharp. Her 800 metres silver medal came after a night on a drip to counter dehydration after a gastric upset. It persisted through her three races. She was being treated until less than 16 hours before the final and did not get to sleep until 5.30am yesterday.

Sharp had twice broken two minutes this year, but finished in 2min 01.34sec for silver. She had been unable to sleep when she was put on a drip in the athletes' village clinic at 3am yesterday. She was suffering from violent sickness and diarrhoea.

Symptoms surfaced before Wednesday's opening round. "I had one spoonful of porridge in the morning and could not face it," said Lynsey, a 24-year-old law graduate. Before Thursday's semi-final she felt worse, but managed to qualify as a fastest loser. She admitted she had also been haunted by the memory of the London Olympics when she failed to reach the final.

"She knew she was unwell," said her mother, Carol, a former Scottish internationalist who ran this event in the 1982 Commonwealths.

"Lynsey said nothing, in an attempt to convince herself she was well enough to run. She was hyperventilating before the start and during the race. It was only in the last 120 metres that her throat opened up and she could breath properly."

"I wasn't sure, as a mother, whether the decision to run was the right one. I could not tell her, because any doubt she saw in my face would have destroyed her. If she had not run, she would always have wondered what might have been. I was terrified for her."

Lynsey confirmed she intends to run in the European championships which starts a week on Tuesday.

Her father, Cameron, was an emotional spectator at the first two races, but could not bring himself to go last night, because of his anxiety. He had just turned 20 in 1978 when he was part of the British record-breaking 4 x 100 metres quartet which won Commonwealth gold in Edmonton: David Jenkins, Allan Wells, Sharp, and Drew McMaster. Sharp was European 200m silver medallist in 1982, competed in three Commonwealth Games winning 100 and 200m bronze, and 4 x100m bronze twice, He also ran in the Olympics, and was the first Scot to beat Wells in seven years.

But Sharp was devastatingly injured in a road traffic accident in 1991. It was compounded by medical negligence which led to serious brain injuries. These resulted in a seven-figure compensation. When he regained consciousness in intensive care, his wife and both daughters were in the room. He recognised Carol and Carly, but asked who the other child was. He did not know he had two daughters. Lynsey was the other, and was unaware when she ran that he was not present last night.

The financial settlement cannot restore what he lost. Sight and mobility is severely impaired. He had to learn to walk again and was so depressed that his wife had to remove cutlery, bleach and cleaning fluids from their kitchen. "We caught him with anti-freeze in the garage," said Carol. "The look he gave us told us that he knew that we knew what he was thinking."

For all his medals and championship appearances, Cameron says his greatest achievement, "is getting out of that thing", and he points at the wheelchair he once thought he would be confined to.

Lynsey says she is inspired by her father's example. "It's made me the person I am. It's made me strong."

I first saw Lynsey and Carly run in a cross-country when Lynsey was 11. The two diminutive figures led the field until close home when they were overtaken by a bigger and older girl. Both were in tears. Carly because she had lost, Lynsey because her big sister had beaten her.

Both became national champions. I saw Lynsey win the Scottish indoor under-13 200m title when she was just 11, an impossibly elfin figure. Then she berated her father for refusing to let her use his starting blocks. "They were much too big for her," said Cameron.

Despite Lynsey's talent, funding support has sometimes dried up. Her mother has thrice downsized in order to help bankroll her daughter's career.

Nothing gets in Lynsey's way. When snow and ice made Lynsey's Meadowbank track unusable she trained in the sepulchral dark of the Innocent Railway Tunnel between Holyrood Park and Waverley Station. Seven-inch icicles hung from the roof.

Over the winter she had two operations, to remove the plantaris tendon which was embedded in her Achilles. The wound collapsed and became infected, requiring plastic surgery. "She has been on some 20 courses of antibiotics since last October," said Mrs Sharp.

In the aftermath, Lynsey was so sure she would be unable to run in the Games that she investigated what it might take to make the cycling team.

Her greatest previous claim to fame was European gold in 2012, won retrospectively, when Yelena Arzhakova was proved to be drug cheat. There were tears then, because she was denied her podium moment. There were tears again last night with a medal she had dreamed of all her life.

"After the year I have been through, I don't think anything can ever top this," she said. Adversity on the journey has made Lynsey Sharp strong. It's a family tradition.

 

Squash could have its Games legacy after all

 

AFTER a singular lack of dialogue between the 2014 organisers and squash during preparations for the Games, I hear that Glasgow is interested in bringing another world squash event to the city.

Scottish Squash has been vocal in their concern over lack of legacy, particularly regarding a show court, but there's now a chance to retrieve that, creating a model that will reduce costs and make Glasgow a world circuit venue.

A permanent show court, seating 1000 - a world first - has just been announced for Hong Kong, but Scottish Squash and Racketball have the vision of a Glasgow Glass Cube. It would also serve as a multi-sport, arts and exhibition space. The Scottish governing body have arranged meetings with architects for next week, and are already talking to marketing experts. Let's hope they do not miss out at a second bite at legacy.

 

Swimmers excel

 

Three golds (Hannah Miley, Ross Murdoch, Daniel Wallace) are just the

tip of the Scottish swimming iceberg. The squad has continuing to push back the barriers of human endeavour. The team of 42 had 38 lifetime best performances in the course of winning their 10 medals (three gold, three silver, four bronze) four more than in Delhi. Scots contested 41 of 44 finals.

A total of 28 contested finals, including five relay swimmers who did not swim individual events. They had 25 Scottish records, two British and

one Commonwealth. There were just three Scottish records in Delhi.

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