O’Hare keen to put past pain be­hind him at last

Scot rel­ishes chance to com­pete at Olympics venue af­ter hurt of 2012

The Herald - Herald Sport - - ATHLETICS - STEWART FISHER

OT all an­niver­saries are a cause for pure, unadul­ter­ated cel­e­bra­tion. Of­ten the vibe is closer to bit­ter­sweet re­flec­tion. Such is the case for Chris O’Hare when it comes to his in­volve­ment in the Lon­don An­niver­sary Games at the Olympic Sta­dium in Stratford this week­end.

Prior to his ap­pear­ance in the Em­s­ley Carr mile this af­ter­noon as he seeks to rub­ber stamp his qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the world cham­pi­onships in Bei­jing next month, the clos­est this 24-year-old mid­dle dis­tance run­ner ever got to com­pet­ing at that hal­lowed venue was watch­ing a morn­ing Lon­don 2012 track-and-field ses­sion with his fam­ily, hav­ing fin­ished third in the tri­als and nar­rowly missed se­lec­tion for Team GB.

“At that point I was a 3.38 guy, and the ‘A’ stan­dard was 3.35 I think,” O’Hare told Her­ald Sport. “I can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly, I try to block it out of my mem­ory. But I was close enough for it to hurt, put it that way.”

A more per­ti­nent mile­stone for Scot­tish com­peti­tors, of course, were the Com­mon­wealth Games in Glas­gow, ex­actly 12 months ago, but even then they were mainly a repos­i­tory for dis­ap­point­ment for the West Lin­ton ath­lete. For all the thrill of par­tic­i­pa­tion, O’Hare chided him­self for his sixth-place fin­ish at Mount Florida, pledg­ing to make him­self a ‘class act’ be­fore his next as­sault at a ma­jor ti­tle. Thank­fully this trans­for­ma­tion is pro­gress­ing apace.

In ad­di­tion to a pair of Euro­pean bronze medals, one out­door in Zurich last year, and one in­door in Prague ear­lier this sea­son, now O’Hare can re­gard him­self as a “3.34 guy”. Not only was the 3.34.83secs over 1500m which he ran in Heus­den in Hol­land a per­sonal best, but it was the third fastest of all time by a Scot out­doors. It met the qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard for Bei­jing and a sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing time to­day over the slightly longer dis­tance would con­firm that he will make the cut when Bri­tish Ath­let­ics un­veil their team for Bei­jing on Tues­day. O’Hare al­ready has one world cham­pi­onships fi­nal on his re­sume, a 12th-place fin­ish in Moscow in 2013, and the win­ner that day, As­bel Kiprop of Kenya, will be along­side him on the start line to­day.

As it turned out, O’Hare’s per­sonal best was merely one strand of a golden week­end for Scot­tish mid­dle-dis­tance run­ning. Amid all this talk of Com­mon­wealth Games legacy, Laura Muir, another who left Glas­gow 2014 bur­dened by re­grets, cel­e­brates the one-year an­niver­sary of her Ham­p­den heartache by break­ing new ground with ev­ery pass­ing week. She com­peted in Lon­don last night, her con­fi­dence bol­stered by a fur­ther per­sonal best and Scot­tish record of 3.58.66secs over 1500m in Monaco which put her sec­ond on the all-time list for Bri­tish women be­hind Dame Kelly Holmes.

The next gen­er­a­tion are get­ting in on the act, too. While Muir and O’Hare were do­ing their thing, Josh Kerr, a bustling 17-year-old with whom O’Hare once shared a coach, pro­duced a storm­ing run to take the Euro­pean Un­der-20 ti­tle over 1500m in Eskilstuna, Swe­den. Next up for Kerr is to fol­low the blue­print of Tulsa grad­u­ate O’Hare and progress through the NCAA sys­tem at the Univer­sity of New Mexico in Al­bu­querque.

“All the chat last year was that we had a nice spread of ath­letes across the team com­ing into form at the right time but since then we have all pro­gressed,” said O’Hare. “If the Com­mon­wealth Games was in Glas­gow in 2015 I think we would be look­ing at even more medals. But that is the na­ture of the sport, the ma­jor cham­pi­onships only come round so of­ten and you have got to make history while you can.

“Laura is by far one of the most tal­ented peo­ple I have ever come across,” added the 24-year-old. “If she chose to do any­thing she would be suc­cess­ful at it so I am just de­lighted she chose track and field. Her runs as of late have just been spec­tac­u­lar. She just goes in with that quin­tes­sen­tial Scot­tish at­ti­tude where she is go­ing to just get stuck in and give it ev­ery­thing she has got, which is some­thing I can re­late to. I’m ex­cited to see what she can do in the next few years and hope­fully I can go along with her.

“It’s great to see the peo­ple who were on the team at the Com­mon­wealths run­ning so well, and great to see some oth­ers com­ing through, like Josh. I have known Josh since he was smaller than me and he cer­tainly isn’t any more! We both prac­tised un­der Dave Camp­bell, and although he has had to re­tire from coach­ing, he taught us ever so much.”

O’Hare grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Tulsa back in 2013, but now lives in Bos­ton, where he is signed to Adi­das, is coached by Ter­rence Ma­hon and trains with an all-Amer­i­can cadre of ath­letes. A Celtic fan, he pa­raded his Euro­pean bronze medals around Park­head late last year, and now spends some of his time watch­ing the other Celtics, the bas­ket­ball team based in Bos­ton. A top-five or six fin­ish in the world cham­pi­onships is his sea­son’s goal, be­fore the quest be­gins to make it to Rio in 2016.

“Whilst Char­lie [Grice, the Bri­tish cham­pion from Eng­land] is my main com­peti­tor in Bri­tain once we get to the world cham­pi­onships it will be a dif­fer­ent ball game al­to­gether,” he said. “Hope­fully we can both make it to the fi­nal, then at that point it is all guns blaz­ing. Hope­fully I can be in the top five or six, that is the aim, then once you are in that ball park, it is all about mak­ing the most of that op­por­tu­nity.”

O’Hare, a de­vout Chris­tian, will marry his Texan fiancée, Mered­ith, back in Tulsa this Oc­to­ber, with his Com­mon­wealth Games kilt in con­tention for his groom’s out­fit. Maybe he will also have another medal, this time a world cham­pi­onship one, in his pos­ses­sion by then.

MAK­ING A FIST OF IT: Chris O’Hare fell short of the medals at Glas­gow 2014, but he’s de­ter­mined to suc­ceed in Bei­jing.

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