• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Athletics: O'Hare ready to take on different set of world-class runners in Zurich

IF he wasn't such a positive, focused individual, Chris O'Hare might be regretting his choice of event a little.

The European Championships coming so soon after the Commonwealth Games is no problem for Chris O'Hare         Photograph: Getty
The European Championships coming so soon after the Commonwealth Games is no problem for Chris O'Hare Photograph: Getty

It is one thing chasing world-class African-born middle-distance runners over 1500m in pursuit of a Commonwealth Games medal, another entirely when you discover that you also must do so in the European Championships.

Outwith Norway's Henrik Ingebrigtsen, two of the other main medal contenders O'Hare must outmanoeuvre if he is to make it on to the podium in Zurich this week weren't even born on the continent. Homiyu Tesfaye, born near Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, runs under the German flag after claiming political asylum there last year, while Ilham Tanui Ozbilen is a Turkish world indoor silver medallist who was originally christened William Biwott Tanui when he was born in the town of Kocholwo in Keiyo District, Kenya.

Thankfully the 23-year-old from West Linton, who was beaten into sixth place on the home straight at Hampden, is inclined to use such challenges as added motivation.

"You lose the Kenyans and you lose Nick Willis [the Commonwealth bronze medallist from New Zealand]," said O'Hare, one of a five-strong Scottish contingent in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team which travels to Switzerland this week. "In fact none of the guys who beat me in Glasgow are going to be at the Europeans. But there are still a very good five or six guys at the top in Europe who are fighting for that position.

"And it will come down to a few guys. "Henrik Ingebrigtsen is running very well this year, then there is Ozbilen, the makeshift Turk, and Tesfaye, the makeshift German. They are very good. But when you have had a race where you have come so close to winning medals and not quite managed it, that is when your motivation is at its greatest. I am certainly going to Zurich with the attention of trying my best to win a medal whilst knowing yet again it is a top-class field so by no means will it be a given. I will be doing my damnedest to get one."

Regardless of the challenges which await him, O'Hare is content with his lot. And no wonder, after what he terms the most perfect week of his life, both professionally and personally.

A matter of hours after he was hearing the thrill of the Hampden crowd roaring him on down the back straight, the 23-year-old was proposing to his American girlfriend Meredith Burns on Calton Hill above Edinburgh, and already these two love-struck alumni of the University of Tulsa are making tentative arrangements for a marriage across the pond upon the conclusion of next year's athletics season.

"It had been on the cards for a few months now, I just had to wait until she got to Scotland," he said. "We went up Calton Hill to look over Edinburgh, and I popped the question up there. My dad took some good pictures and it was a really nice evening. It will definitely be in Tulsa, now my fiancée Meredith will just have to sit down with my agent and agree a date! We will have to inject a bit of Scottishness into the typical Oklahoma wedding ... they just run around with cows over there."

News of the engagement only strengthens the sense that the last fortnight or so has been something of a coming of age for O'Hare and the new wave of Scottish running which he represents. He is joined in the GB & NI team by distance runners Laura Muir and Beth Potter, and newly-crowned Commonwealth silver medallists Eilidh Child and Lynsey Sharp, most of whom have been travelling together to Scottish team events since at least the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in 2008.

His main Home Nations competition will come from British champion Charlie Grice, although the Brighton athlete took that crown whilst O'Hare was still recuperating from his mid-season hamstring injury.

"British running is having a bit of a resurgence at the moment and I am just blessed to be part of it," said O'Hare. "For sure it is great to have a wee group of Scots coming through together. Charlie is the British champion by right, so it is good to be coming to Zurich with two guys who could challenge for a medal."

The European Championships take place in the Swiss City's Letzigrund Stadium, a venue ripe in athletics history. It is the home of the famous Weltklasse Diamond League meeting, where Seb Coe and company re-wrote the middle-distance world record book during the 1980s. "I have never been to Zurich before so I am excited to take in another culture and another experience," said O'Hare. "The Weltklasse wasn't really something that I watched but you have got to respect the history and draw some sort of inspiration from it."

In the bowels of Hampden last week, O'Hare gave short shrift to the notion that it would be difficult to peak for two events in such quick succession. This is a serious young man who takes inspiration from the work ethic of the likes of veteran Bernard Lagat and envisages having anything upwards of 15 more years in the sport.

"I definitely want to put a pin in at the end of the Commonwealths and separate it from the European Championship experience," he said. "With how my season has gone, this is actually fairly early, I haven't actually raced that much. I am not worrying about having had to have done a certain amount of racing before going to a major championships. My head is where I need it to be, and my legs are where I need them to be."

The final of the 1500m will take place a week today, but unlike countryman Eric Liddell, O'Hare finds no issue between his Christian beliefs and racing on a Sunday. "I feel like I have been given this spectacular talent and I am sure God wouldn't want me to waste it by not running on a Sunday," said O'Hare.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

253653