Celebration time for Chris O’Hare as he claims gold at the British Champs – photo courtesy of British Athletics/Getty Images
Chris O’Hare gritted his teeth to win Scotland’s 1500m ‘battle of Birmingham’ and then revealed why he hopes there’s a legacy for the sport in this country.
The double European bronze medallist took gold at the British Champs to nail down his place for the London 2017 World Champs next month and led home a remarkable 1-2-3-4 at the Alexander Stadium.
Josh Kerr, 19, took second place to book his London slot alongside former training partner O’Hare, with bronze medallist Jake Wightman now waiting on the third selection place. Neil Gourley was the Scot to finish in fourth in a thrilling finale.
Chris, of course, was one of the #SALFab15 who went to the Olympics last summer and now 11 are already confirmed for London – a record Scottish representation for a GB and NI team at a World Champs.
And the Edinburgh AC-developed athlete, who moved to Tulsa University and now lives in Boston, spoke to scottishathletics about the growing ‘team spirit’.
‘There is a culture building and it’s a winning culture. I said last year, when 15 made Rio, that Scots are like terriers – and it is so true,’ said Chris, who overcame a slight hamstring problem to win on Sunday.
‘We might not be the biggest country or the strongest, or the most funded, but we are determined to make an impact. I think we have the most fight, and that’s important.
When you see another result by a Scot, you are thrilled and envious at the same time. People are thinking ‘I want a bit of that’ in terms of the credit and plaudits that are going around. I can see it driving up performances.
‘You are thinking ‘he wants to be me, and I want to be him‘ but at the end of the day we are all together driving the sport upwards.
If there are young Scottish kids, who are in athletics, watching that on Sunday afternoon and thinking they want a slice of the action, then that’s absolutely brilliant.
‘That 1-2-3-4 was a bit special, for sure. I think 1500m running has been improving in Scotland, and Britain, over the past few years and I’m glad to have been part of that.
‘When you step back and look it – you see that it’s Scottish 1500m running big time. That is just brilliant.’
O’Hare was World champs finalist in Moscow in the summer of 2013, only a few weeks after Wightman won the European U20 title. Two years later, Kerr followed Wightman as the U20 champion at 1500m and Gourley won European U23 bronze in Estonia.
Years before that, Chris and Josh were with Dave Campbell’s group (Jake was with John Lees, with dad Geoff always as main coach) and there was a time when Terry O’Hare helped train Josh after Chris had moved to America.
It was put to Chris that while he is by no means the ‘elder statesman’ at 26, he has in a sense blazed a trail for others.
‘I definitely take pride in thinking if guys are trying to ‘follow’ what I’ve done in the sport so far,’ he replied.
‘To see Josh coming through is nice and it was nice he was still behind me (on Sunday)! He might get the better of me in future years – but it is great to know my family was involved in his development, with my dad Terry having some coaching input. We’ve put in work together years ago.
‘Knowing that I have made the selection is all-important, obviously. These are the events you want to race at and it doesn’t come bigger than a World Champs in London. It feels good to be British champion again.
‘I went to Birmingham on Sunday and it was just a case of making sure I was coming back for London. I was thinking to myself ‘I am the most experienced guy here, or me and Charlie Grice, and I don’t want people to get beyond me’.’
The chasing pack didn’t swallow up O’Hare this time. If and when it happens in later years, he will be entitled to feel he maybe helped in one way to spur the next generation.