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Lynsey Sharp focuses on 'proper' European title win

ANOTHER day in the European Championship arena; another supremely assured victory by a Scot.

Lynsey Sharp only received her long-awaited 2012 European gold medal in January at the Emirates Arena. Picture: SNS
Lynsey Sharp only received her long-awaited 2012 European gold medal in January at the Emirates Arena. Picture: SNS

Sadly, there were no medals on the line when Chris O'Hare strode clear of the pack in heat two of the men's 1500m yesterday morning, just qualification for tomorrow's final.

Still, a place in history is beckoning for the young Borderer on the closing weekend of Zurich 2014. It is the same for Lynsey Sharp, a fellow Edinburgh AC member, and for Eilidh Child, the pride of Pitreavie AAC, who were both highly impressive semi-final winners on Thursday night. Their finals fall this afternoon. For Sharp, who is first up, there is a title to defend - and a little score to settle.

The 24-year-old law graduate may have received her 800m gold medal in touching fashion, presented by her father at Glasgow's Emirates Arena in January, but she was denied the glow of a lap of honour in Helskini in 2012 by Russia's Yelena Arzhakova, whose biological passport subsequently revealed she'd been powered to a hollow victory by something more potent than Smarties.

Today's two-lap final is a chance for Sharp to win the title and celebrate on the same day. "That's the thing," she said. "Everyone says about the last one, 'Well, it was upgraded'. It would be nice to do it properly and experience the full thing rather than it being a year and a bit later."

It is also an opportunity for Sharp to claim a piece of history. No female British athlete has ever won back-to- back European outdoor titles. No Scot has done so, although two Edinburgh AC athletes went close. David Jenkins won the 400m in Helsinki in 1971 but finished runner-up in Rome four years later. Yvonne Murray won 3,000m gold in Split in 1990 but took silver in Helsinki in 1994.

If Sharp were to succeed, she'd join a select band of Britons: Linford Christie, Roger Black, Steve Cram, Mo Farah, Colin Jackson, Steve Backley and Daley Thompson. She would also complete a job that the great Lillian Board was heartbreakingly unable to. Board won the 800m in Athens in 1969 but died of cancer nine months before the 1971 championships in Helsinki, aged 22.

There is every chance that Sharp will claim her place in history. Far from draining her, her rollercoaster home Commonwealth Games experience (being hooked up to an IV drip the night before the final and then emerging with a silver medal) looks to have infused undiluted confidence into her system.

The big danger is Yekaterina Poistogova, the Russian who was a far from flat-out runner-up to Sharp in her semi-final. She has a lot more to come and the pedigree of a London 2012 bronze medallist.

Child appears to be a class apart from her rivals in the 400m hurdles. On season's bests, the Perth woman's 54.39sec puts her 0.24sec clear of the next quickest in Europe: Czech Denisa Roslova, whose ex-husband, Lukas Rosol, delivered a second-round knockout blow to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon two years ago.

World Student Games champion Anna Titimets of Ukraine could push Child closer but the form book points towards the Glasgow 2014 silver medallist becoming only the second British winner after Sally Gunnell, who prevailed in Helsinki in 1994.

As for O'Hare, having started near the back and easing through to win his 1500m heat in 3min 39.24sec yesterday, he will have the chance in his final tomorrow to become the first British medal winner in the event since 1986, when Cram took gold and Sebastian Coe silver.

The 23-year-old from West Linton will face a Frenchman on a mission, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who finished third in the other 1500m heat the morning after losing the 3,000m steeplechase gold for removing his vest and running the last 100m bare- chested. Asked to reflect on the cost of his antics, he quoted Edith Piaf. "Non, je ne regrette rien," he insisted. "Only in athletics can you be disqualified for taking your vest off. My dream is to win a medal in the 1500m."

In last year's World Championship final in Moscow, O'Hare finished a detached 12th. "I won't be last this time, that's for sure," he pledged.

And what if he came into the home straight well clear? "Maybe I'd blow a few kisses to the crowd," said O'Hare, "but I think I'll keep my vest on."

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