Chris O’Hare fully lived up to his status as British champion as he produced a second controlled performance to earn a place in a World Championship final for the second time.
The 26-year-old clearly believes he is much better placed to take advantage of the opportunity than he was in Moscow four years ago, buoyed as he is by a new level of self-belief.
“I think it’s the most deeply rooted confidence I’ve ever had,” he said, after judging his effort perfectly to minimise his energy expenditure as he jogged over the line in the fourth of the five automatic qualifying spots with the chasing pack just behind him.
“I talked with my psychologist at the start of the year. It was about building what we call a central confidence. Confident beyond belief and it’s such a deep rooted confidence.
“Previously I’ve had a superficial confidence and managed to talk myself into a semi-confident state. This year I was a bit nervous about what was going to unfold.
“Terence (Mahon) my coach said you don’t have to be on top form today, you just have to qualify and that’s a good spot for us to be in. I don’t have to be 100 per cent (but) I was 100 per cent and that’s good to know, but having that central confidence has been huge.
“With 200 to go I knew I was in good nick and if I had to hold off any fast finishers I could so I was able to shut down 20-30 metres to the line watching the screen.”
While O’Hare always felt he knew what he needed to do to compete at this level that confidence is based on feeling as if he now has all the necessary tools.
“I feel like my race management has always been there or thereabouts,” he said.
“It’s just about running smooth, being happy where I was and having some gears left and that’s how I felt.
“I feel like I’ve not had a year like this ever before. It’s great for me to just come in healthy and happy.”
Having also looked a model of composure in his first round heat, O’Hare consequently clearly believes he is in with a chance of getting in among the medals in tomorrow’s final.
“There are three and a half minutes of hard work left this weekend,” he said.
“That’s almost a bit harder, making the final. Confidence wise and mentally it’s the hardest part. Now we’re there we just need to execute the plan.”
That could hardly have contrasted more with the experience of Edinburgh AC clubmate Jake Wightman who was deeply disappointed with the way he performed, to the point of suggesting he has a great deal still to learn about championship racing.
“I was just completely flat at 150 metres to go and I think the lesson from that is I need to get better at going through rounds because I think yesterday took more out of me than I thought,” said Wightman who had twice surged towards the front end of the field during the final lap, but on both occasions rapidly dropped back.
“It’s gutting because top five was a real possibility there and with a lap to go I felt like it could have been on, but I was just a bit too frantic throughout and I think I wasted too much energy in the first two laps.
“I could have done with having a Championships like this before, but it’ll come hopefully. I look at people that have raced Championships for years and they’re so calm, they don’t panic and they know that the option to move forward or gaps will open, but I’m not confident enough to do that style of racing.”
The context of his criticism of his championship form is that Wightman went into last month’s British Championships having posted the fastest time of the season by a British 1500 metre runner, yet he failed to claim one out of the top two spots that would have qualified him automatically for the World Championships, finishing behind O’Hare and teenager Josh Kerr and consequently subjecting himself to an anxious wait for selection while he felt he tensed up too much last night.
“I was thinking that if I could get to 200 relaxed I could do some damage, but I wasn’t, I was just panicking all the way and as soon as they started moving I just had nothing left to respond, so it’s pretty disappointing because my championship racing this year’s not been great,” he said.
“I need to come away from this and try to get my head back together for my last three races before having a break and then starting again for next year.”
As he reflects on things, however, he knows that the next majjor opportunity is set to come relatively early in the new year when he is looking forward to being part of a Scotland team that has increasing reason to believe that it can make a significant impact at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast next April.
He has particular incentive to do well there because he was not in the necessary shape to compete as he had hoped to in Glasgow three years ago.
“I think I went to injured last time so I’ve got a bit of redemption to get there, but it’s a chance to represent Scotland which, in the current state of things, is a good chance for us to showcase just what talent we have,” he said. “There’s definitely a chance for medals for a lot of our team, so I want to be one of those trying to get one and that’s what the winter will be geared towards.”