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O'Hare chases medals to make name known at home

WHEN the Commonwealth Games athletics programme gets under way at Hampden Park this summer, one athlete who will be flying in under the radar is 1500m runner Chris O'Hare.

Chris O'Hare's goal is always to win a medal, competing is not enough    Photograph: PA
Chris O'Hare's goal is always to win a medal, competing is not enough Photograph: PA

Although well known to athletics aficionados, he will be a new talent for the wider Scottish public to appreciate.

O'Hare, who was born and brought up in West Linton, has been based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the past four-and-a-half years. It has been the perfect environment for his athletics career to flourish, but hasn't given him much of a profile in his home land.

That will change dramatically in the next few months as, according to recent Commonwealth Games rankings, the 23-year-old is the Scottish male athlete most likely to be contesting a track final at Hampden. If it comes to pass, all eyes will be on the former Peebles High School pupil in late July and early August.

A rare native sighting of O'Hare will be afforded to spectators at the Emirates Arena on Saturday when he takes part in the Sainsbury's Glasgow International match. He will be competing in Scottish colours as, for the first time in the event, the hosts will have a team competing against the USA, a Commonwealth Select and Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"I've never been to the Emirates before, so I will try out the track a day or two before the meeting," says the athlete who secured his Glasgow 2014 place in September. He might also pause to gaze at Celtic Park across the road as he and his family are fans of the Scottish champions.

Eleven months ago O'Hare was omitted from the British team for the European Indoor Championships in Helsinki. He wasn't happy, but says: "These upsets are part of life and part of the deal. I knew when I signed up for athletics I was going to be disappointed a huge portion of the time. That's what makes you stronger and fight all the more. These setbacks are more important to me than the victories."

After posting his outdoor 1500m personal best of 3:35.37 in Belgium at the start of July, O'Hare became the first Scot for more than 35 years to head the British 1500m and mile rankings. He was duly selected for the World Championships in Moscow the next month.

Finishing 12th, and last, in the final was not the reason he travelled to Russia, but nevertheless he was the first British 1500m runner to reach that stage for six years. "Being last in a world championship final is by no means good, as you can imagine, although a step in the right direction," he says.

"I think the problem with British 1500m running is that people have been content with just making a championship, but that has never been my goal. Mine is to win a medal. I was brought up to believe that if you are going to do something make sure you do it to the best of your ability and don't waste any time being mediocre."

O'Hare will remain based in the United States, despite graduating in sports science from the University of Tulsa. His nutritionist girlfriend Meredith, who he met on the course, is from Oklahoma but whether or not he stays in Tulsa, or moves to another part of the United States, depends on the shoe contract being negotiated by his agent.

His younger sister, Olivia, a former Scottish Schools 800m and 1500m winner, is also now studying at the University of Tulsa.

"I know America well now and there are more commercial opportunities over there," O'Hare says. "Much as I love Scotland and the UK, I have to make a living from athletics while I can. The best facilities are also over there."

In an event so dominated by the Kenyans and other African runners, even just making the final at the Commonwealth Games is a huge ask but O'Hare is not intimidated. Asked about his prospects, he replies: "I think the way my training is going that winning a medal is realistically achievable.

"If at any point I think it's not I will sit down and give myself a good slap - and tell myself to work harder. I've had my fair share of these moments over the last few years and it's what athletes have to do once in a while."

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