Hurdler Eilidh Child wins Britain’s seventh gold of the European Champs as fellow Scot Lynsey Sharp smashes the Scottish record to win 800m silver
Billed as the ‘poster girl’ of the Commonwealth Games, Eilidh Child used a sports psychologist to help her handle the pressure. It has paid off, too, as she followed her silver medal in Glasgow with European gold on Saturday afternoon in the Letzigrund Stadium.
The man who armed her with the mental strength to go with her considerable physical abilities was not the well-known ‘mechanic of the mind’ Steve Peters, though, but a sports psychologist called Mike Cunningham.
On the track, meanwhile, the 27-year-old hurdler could have no wiser coach than Malcolm Arnold – and this winning combination resulted in victory in Zurich as she clocked 54.48 to beat Anna Titimets of Ukraine by eight hundredths of a second with Irina Davydova a close third.
“I knew if I executed my race right then I’d be happy with the result,” said Child. “I was tying up after the last hurdle and the finish line couldn’t come soon enough. I’ve been taking each race as it comes and these are the moments you dream about – my first major gold medal.”
Child began working with Cunningham after she had a disappointing London Olympics. “I had always known that your mental strength in sport was just as important as your physical ability but until I had met Mike, I didn’t know how to train or use my mind efficiently,” she said.
Another Scottish runner-up from the Commonwealth Games, Lynsey Sharp, settled for another silver medal in Zurich, but the 24-year-old was rewarded with a Scottish 800m record of 1:58.80 as she was outkicked by Maryna Arzamasova of Belarus in the home straight in 1:58.15.
Best known for sitting back and relying on her fast finish, Sharp instead adopted front-running tactics for the final. The Edinburgh athlete had looked good doing this in her semi-final and so in the final she led through the bell in 58.2 and 600m in 1:27.8 with only Aramasova able to go with her.
Sharp said: “I’ve felt so good this week and went to the front and thought ‘I’m going to go for it’. I ran like a scared rabbit from the front, which is not like me, but unfortunately I just tied up a little bit, which is what happens when you go through in 58.”
The fierce pace turned it into a two-horse race with the remainder of the field well adrift of the leading pair. Entering the home straight, Sharp gave it her all but Aramasova eased past her to win by just over half a second.
“Everything worked great today – the weather, the opponents, my body,” said the Belarus winner, the daughter of 1986 European 1500m champion Ravilya Agletdinova. “My plan was to run fast from the beginning because I feel much more comfortable in the fast race and I had enough strength in the finish too.
“Since March, I have been dreaming about Zurich and also about the Continental Cup. Now, my dreams come true and I hope I will have the chance to represent on the top level.”
Sharp was the defending champion after taking gold in the 2012 European Championships after finishing second to Yelena Arzhakova, only to see the Russian later disqualified for a doping offence.
“If I can do this after the winter that I had, then I’m really looking forward to the future and what I can do when I get my foot fixed,” said Sharp, who won silver in Glasgow after a build-up period peppered with illness and injury problems.
Jess Judd, meanwhile, finished a tired-looking seventh in 2:01.65. “I gave it everything and couldn’t have done any more,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m disappointed now but to make two finals is a dream come true and I’m proud of it.”
Jo Pavey was unable to produce another miracle run in the women’s 5000m but she finished a creditable seventh in a slow race. Instead victory went to Meraf Bahta of Sweden as she denied Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan an endurance double as she clocked 15:31.39.
In a great finish, Bahta had led in the closing stages while Hassan employed the same sit-and-kick tactics that had won her the 1500m title. But when Hassan attacked in the home straight, Bahta rallied and powered away to win by four tenths of a second.
“I was disappointing in how I felt today but I gave it everything out there and pleased I gave it a go,” said Pavey, who clocked 15:38.41. “Recovering from the 10,000m was always going to be hard and sharing the track with athletes half my age has been a pleasure.”
Two places behind Pavey in ninth, youngster Emelia Gorecka said: “It’s an absolute honour to be on the track with Jo.”
In the field, Krisztián Pars of Hungary led the men’s hammer with 82.18m from the third round and the Olympic champion cemented victory with a 2014 world lead of 82.69m as silver went to Pawel Fajdek of Poland with 82.05m and bronze to Sergey Litvinov of Russia with 79.35m.
One of the biggest names of the championships, Renaud Lavillenie, lived up to the hype by winning the pole vault. With a best mark of 5.80m the Frenchman finished ahead of runner-up Pawel Wojciechowski of Poland, who vaulted 5.70m as Kevin Menaldo of France and Jan Kudlicka of the Czech Republic shared bronze with the same height. It wasn’t a good day for Steve Lewis, though, as the Commonwealth champion cleared 5.40m but failed at 5.60m and twice at 5.70m.
The triple jump saw Olha Saladukha of Ukraine win her third European triple jump title with 14.73m – just four centimetres ahead of Yekaterina Koneva of Russia.
Sandra Perkovic took the women’s discus title with a Croatian record of 71.08m. Totally dominant, Perkovic beat runner-up Melina Robert-Michon of France by almost six metres and her throw was the longest since 1992 and lifts her to 18th on the world all-time rankings.
In the relays, all British teams qualified for Sunday’s final with the women’s 4x100m time of 42.62 the third fastest ever by a GB quartet and not far off the 1980 UK record of 42.43.
>> Full coverage from Zurich in the August 21 issue of Athletics Weekly