Chance for Strachan to prove a point after Olympic heartache

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While his training partners and British team-mates were wearing the home vest with pride at last summer’s London Olympics, Richard Strachan was left to get his head down and do his best to ignore the greatest show on earth.

A succession of injuries had robbed the 400m runner from Leeds of the chance to even challenge for a place within Team GB for the summer extravaganza.

After a profitable 2011 that yielded his first international medal, 2012 should have been about progression to the highest stage.

But a damaged metatarsal robbed him of an indoor season last winter and that was followed by a grade two calf tear that struck on the eve of the Olympic trials.

The injuries combined ensured that throughout the whole of last year the 26-year-old never wore an England or GB vest in competition.

He could have sulked about it, but instead, while his London-based training partners Nigel Levine, Conrad Williams and Luke Lennon-Ford contested places in the 4x400m relay squad and individual race, he overcame his injury and began training again.

“While the Olympics were on I stayed down south,” said Strachan. “I didn’t want to run away. I needed to train, stay focused. I went and carried on training alone.

“I had to watch it all on television as my friends were enjoying that electric atmosphere.

“It was a difficult time but when I got back competing I raced until September 9 in an attempt to put everything behind me.

“I was happy for them but very frustrated and it made me train harder this year to get back.

“I knew I had to stick with the training and now I’m reaping the rewards.”

Indeed he is. Strachan hit the 2013 indoor season with a point to prove, to himself more than anyone.

He began in Austria in January and at the Birmingham grand prix at the start of February he clocked 46.22 seconds, the fifth quickest 400m in the world this year.

Confirming his place in the GB squad for the 400m individual and relay races at the European Indoor Championships in Gothernburg was a formality he completed in Sheffield in February.

“It’s a massively important championships for me because of what happened last year,” said Strachan, who on the opening day of the three-day meet yesterday, won his first-round heat in a time of 46.96 seconds to book his spot in this evening’s semi-final.

“So it was important to get back on track and enjoy racing again, especially with the pressure of last year off my back.

“I finished fifth in the individual at the Europeans two years ago and all through last summer, making sure I was in the squad for Gothenburg was always at the back of my mind.”

Competing for a first individual medal is well within the capabilities of the in-form Strachan.

He could also add to the silver he won in Paris two years ago with the relay squad, which York’s Richard Buck is also involved in.

The majority of that team is likely to be made up of Strachan’s training partners, Levine – who is the British No 1 – and Lennon-Ford, all of whom train together under former Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie in London.

“Linford has achieved so much within the sport. He’s a great role model and he’s so down to earth,” said Strachan, who moved down to the capital two-and-a-half years ago to be part of Christie’s training group.

“When we were at the Birmingham grand prix we had to walk around the building to get to the front and it took 40 minutes because of all the kids that wanted his autograph. He was happy to sign them all.

“Linford’s a great coach and it’s a very tight-knit training group we have.

“What we do in training is we have fun all the time. We work hard but it’s a group that enjoys each other’s company.

“We run the reps together and then we have a laugh together.

“When the gun goes off we’re in the zone, competing against each other. It’s a race at the end of the day and we all want medals and we all want to be successful.

“But it’s also given me a good friendship group.”

In order to medal in the individual in Sweden this weekend, Strachan believes he has to be tactically sound, an element he feels has been holding him back in recent weeks.

At the European trials in Sheffield at the beginning of February he was kicking himself in the semi-final for going too early.

Yesterday’s serene qualification from the opening heat will have at least settled his mind that he is decent form and a contender for a place in tomorrow’s final.

However, in the relay, where Great Britain have won silver at the last two continental championships, only gold will do in Gothenburg.

Strachan added: “We’ve got a very, very strong team this year, much stronger than it was two years ago. But historically we’ve had strong teams and not delivered. There are numerous times where we should have won, could have won, but haven’t.

“We’ve already discussed that. With such a good team, we need to be making sure we come back with a gold medal.”

Joining Strachan in the 4x400m relay squad is Buck, who is twice a silver medallist in this event at the last two championships.

The relay is the final event of the weekend in Sweden, scheduled for 5.45pm (4.45pm UK time) tomorrow afternoon.

Middlesbrough long jumper Chris Tomlinson, who was sixth in the Olympic final last year, begins his quest for the title in qualification this morning.

The final is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Sheffield’s Mukhtar Mohammed, 22, last night secured his place in this evening’s 800m semi-final after winning his first-round heat in a time of one minute 49.43 seconds.

Mohammed recovered to win the race after being pushed at the start of the final lap.