Commonwealth Games 2014: Wise words ring true for Lynsey Sharp to defy illness and run the 800m of her life

Lesser souls would have buckled but the Sharps are made of stern stuff

Hampden Park

Scrawled in black marker pen on Lynsey Sharp’s right hand as she lined up for the Commonwealth Games women’s 800m final on Friday night were the instructions: ‘Get out strong, commit.’ Unknown to the 50,000 crowd packed into Scotland’s national football stadium, all through the night before the same hand had been attached to an intravenous drip for several hours.

The law graduate from Edinburgh had only scraped through from the semi-finals as one of the fastest losers. If she looked off colour then, she certainly was when she returned to the athletes’ village, being up all night suffering from sickness and diarrhoea.

Lesser souls would have buckled but the Sharps are made of stern stuff. Back in 1991, when Lynsey was a year old, her father suffered life-threatening injuries in a road accident. Now 59, he can walk without crutches and exercise daily at the gym.

In his prime as one of Scotland’s finest ever sprinters, Cameron Sharp won five Commonwealth Games medals. On Friday night, he was one of the natives roaring at Hampden as his inspirational daughter overcame the odds and added a sixth medal to the family collection.

 

It was silver but it might as well have been gold. The English pole vaulter Steve Lewis won one of the latter last night but only had to clear a modest 5.55m to do so, beating compatriot Luke Cutts in a jump off. Fortunately for him, Renaud Lavillenie, who took the world record up to 6.16m earlier this year, happens to be French.

Sharp had the world’s leading female 800m runner in her field and Eunice Sum, the reigning world champion, maintained her unbeaten run in 2014, kicking to a clear victory down the home straight in 2 minutes 00.31 seconds. The real drama unfolded in the wake of the triumphant Kenyan.

Sharp was boxed on the inside at the bell and looked out of contention with 200m to go. England’s 19-year-old Jessica Judd looked the most likely Briton to finish in the medal frame. But then Sharp shifted into overdrive. With a vengeance.

At the European  Championships in Helsinki two years ago she had produced a grandstand finish to take silver – subsequently upgraded to gold after the disqualification of the Russian drug-taker, Yelena Arzhakova. This time she took off like her father, sprinting past  Judd and ultimately – fuelled by a high octane cocktail of sheer inspiration and a deafening Hampden roar – past Winnie Nanyondo to snatch silver from the Ugandan  by 0.03sec in a time of 2:01.34.

“This is my everything,” Sharp said, after a tearful lap of honour. “This year has been obstacle after obstacle. Even right up to this morning, I was in hospital in the village until 5.30am.

“I haven’t slept at all. I was throwing up all night. I had a drip in my arm. There was no way I was going to go through everything I have been through not to get a medal tonight.

“I know how low the low points can be. Yesterday I almost lost it and today I had to come out and get it right. I had 24 hours to get it right and thankfully I did.”

She did that, overcoming not just sickness but the obstacles of two operations that ruined her winter preparation. In doing so, Cameron’s daughter took Scotland’s track and field medal haul at Glasgow 2014 to four, twice as many as they have won at any Games since 1990.

As well as gold and silver for Lewis and Cutts in the men’s pole vault, there was a  silver for England’s Isobel Pooley in the high jump, the part time model clearing a  lifetime best of 1.92m. There was also a bronze in the discus for Jade Lally, who trains among cow pats in a discus circle built by her father  in a farmer’s field in West  Sussex.

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