Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp wins Commonwealth 800m medal despite spending night before final in hospital on a drip
After running all year with a gammy leg and scraping through to the 800m final as one of the fastest losers, the odds of Lynsey Sharp winning a medal on Friday night at the Commonwealth Games already seemed slim. So to take silver behind Kenya’s Eunice Sum after a sleepless night spent being sick and on a drip was, in her own words, a miracle.
She was hardly exaggerating. The 24-year-old – one of Scotland’s big medal hopes for the Games – was in hospital until 5.30am on the morning of the two-lap final. Such was the pain in her stomach, she was unable to take her socks off and at one point a group of policemen walked away at the sound of her retching.
“There are so many obstacles I’ve been through,” she said. “I went out for dinner last night because I thought it was the food in the village that I wasn’t enjoying and I ordered steak and when it came to the table and I thought ‘I can’t eat that’.
“I went back to the village and threw up for a few hours. Steve Maguire (Scottish Athletics director of coaching) took me across to the clinic and I was there until 5.30am on a drip.
“So all I ate today was porridge and scrambled egg and I came out here today thinking that I wanted to leave everything out there on the track.
“After everything I’ve been through, to have one more obstacle thrown at me is just laughable. And I had just one shot – two minutes – to do everything.”
Did she ever consider dropping out? “Yes. At 2.30-3am last night I had compression socks on and couldn’t bend over to take them off because the cramp in my stomach was so bad. I was thinking ‘how the hell am I going to run tomorrow if I can’t even bend over to take my socks off’. But somehow, another miracle happened.”
Sharp, who was sharing a room with Steph Twell, slept a little until 9am and then another hour before lunch. “There are two things I won’t forget,” she continued. “One is being on my hands and knees being sick outside my room with the nurse holding my hair back and Steven Macguire standing there and four police officers walking away at the sound of me being sick and then being doubled over trying to take my socks off while Steph was sleeping in the room.”
Sharp has already endured big problems in the run-up to the Games. An operation on a lower leg injury last year left a wound that has not healed and occasionally gets infected. She was on a drip in April with the problem and it needs further surgery at the end of this summer.
Despite this, she has been in fine form in 2014 and in Friday’s final she stayed tucked on the inside lane before powering through in the closing stages to finish ahead of home country rivals Jess Judd and Jenny Meadows.
Sharp rarely allows herself to get boxed in on the kerb. “I could have panicked but something told me to sit there,” she said.
Then, in the closing stages, she looked stronger than in the heats when she only qualified as a fast loser. “I’ve been working with Rana Reider, the sprints coach, and I was trying to keep my technique even though it was disgustingly messy!”
Would she have challenged Sum more closely if she had not felt so queasy in the previous 24 hours? “Yes, 100%. But if someone told me at 2.30am this morning that I could have a silver then I would have said yes, definitely.”
The European champion added: “With the year I’ve been through, this is above everything I’ve ever done before and I don’t think anything will ever top it in future. It’s a miracle.”
To give herself something to focus on at the start line, she wrote the words: “Get out strong” and “Commit” on her hand. She explained: “The crowd was so intimidating and yesterday, in the heats, I s*** myself on the line so I needed something to take me away from the moment. So I embraced it today and thought ‘they’re here for me’ and looked at my hand to give me something to focus on.”
She also had the knowledge that her parents were in the crowd. Her father Cameron Sharp, an Olympian and Commonwealth sprint medallist, together with former national 800m champion Carol Lightfoot, were in Hampden to support her and she said: “My mum and dad are both so strong. My mum has fought for my dad and my dad has literally fought for his life. It’s made me the person I am. It’s made me strong.”
Sharp added that Allan Wells, the 1980 Olympic 100m champion, had given her a photo of himself with her father with a message for her “to focus”. She put it on her wall in the athletes’ village,
“To have people like that here and Seb Coe saying I could nick a medal, it’s amazing. These guys are legends,” she said.
For now, though, Sharp is able to enjoy the moment – and some junk food at last. “I’m just hoping I can enjoy some rubbish food now. I’ve been looking forward to it for days, weeks!”
But what will she choose? “Cookies. They’ve got a whole pastry section in the food hall. I’m so excited!”