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

Tough of the Track II: Chris O'Hare turns back the clock with battling bronze

It was a race finished in style by Adam Gemili, the young speed merchant bringing home the baton for the victorious men's 4x100 metres relay team, but the finest day that Britain's athletes have enjoyed on the continental stage - a medal-fest which completed a record European Championship haul - was launched by a Borderer who can claim to be Scotland's own Tough of the Track.

Chris O'Hare reflects on his breakthrough bronze medal in the 1,500m at the European Championships in Zurich
Chris O'Hare reflects on his breakthrough bronze medal in the 1,500m at the European Championships in Zurich

With his flicked dark hair and his muscular build, Chris O'Hare bears more than a passing resemblance to Alf Tupper, the comic book hero of old who took on the world with that nickname. More pertinently, the 23-year-old has the same "up and at 'em" approach to his racing, too.

That much was evident in the 1500m final yesterday. After starting at the back, O'Hare grasped the bull by the horns on the penultimate lap, moving up the 13-man field on the back straight and snatching pole position with 550m remaining.

Two rivals crashed to the floor amid the bumping and barging in the tightly-bunched pack but O'Hare held his balance and his nerve - even after Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, the Frenchman who was stripped of his gold medal after removing his vest in celebration en route to a fleeting victory in the 3000m steeplechase final on Thursday, shot to the front at the bell and proceeded to hare clear on his redemption run. "I was fuelled with rage," he said later.

This time the Mekhissi-Benabbad boy managed to restrain himself, merely gesturing to the gallery before crossing the line half a second ahead of the favourite, Henrik Ingebrigtsen of Denmark. O'Hare, who has battled with a hamstring problem all year, gritted his teeth and clawed his way - Tupper-style - to the bronze medal in 3min 46.18sec.

The former Peebles High School pupil would have had every reason to remove his kit in celebration, having bridged the gap back to the all-time greats of British middle-distance running. It was the first European men's 1500m medal won by a British runner since Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe finished first and second in Stuttgart in 1986.

It was also the first medal in the event for a Scotsman, though that accomplishment might have gone to Graham Williamson in 1982 instead had he not been tripped in the final. He failed to finish and Cram won.

O'Hare is more restrained, though. He strolled calmly to the front row of the stands and shared a quiet embrace with his family.

Speaking in an accent halfway between the Borders and Oklahoma, where he studied at the University of Tulsa, O'Hare acknowledged that he would not get carried away with the significance of his achievement in turning the clock back to the days of Coe, Cram and Steve Ovett, who won the title in Prague in 1978. "I've a huge amount of respect for those guys but this is our time," he said. "We need to make a name for ourselves."

O'Hare has certainly done that. Like Eildh Child, who yesterday added a 4x400m relay bronze medal to the 400m hurdles gold she won the previous day, and Lynsey Sharp, who took silver in the 800m on Saturday, he has played his part in what has been the greatest performance by a British team in the 80-year history of the European Championships.

O'Hare's was the first of eight British medals on the final day. Five of those were gold.

Having missed the Commonwealth Games after a health scare, Mo Farah kicked clear of Azerbaijani Hayle Ibrahimov to win the 5000m in 14 min 05.82sec, completing his third straight major championship 5000m-10,000m double. It followed his successes at the Olympics in 2012 and the 2013 World Championships. "There's been a lot of talk about me not being able to deliver. I've done my job," he said.

Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford also delivered gold, courtesy of a 8.29m leap, while the men's 4x400m relay, and the men's and women's 4x100m relay teams also triumphed, the latter setting a British record with a time of 42.24sec.

The tally over six days of action in the Letzigrund Stadium added up to 23 medals: 12 gold, five silver and six bronze. There had never been more than nine British golds before, or 19 medals in total. "There have been some seriously impressive results," said Neil Black, the performance director of British Athletics.

None more so than the 1500m bronze won by the boy from the Borders who happens to be the double of Alf Tupper. "I have absolutely no idea who that is," confessed 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.

255432