Arzhakova takes 800m gold in a dramatic finish
|Yelena Arzhakova of Russia won the 800m
with a season best time of 1:58.28.
Arzhakova may have beaten the favourite, but her victory was hardly a surprise given that her best 2012 time of 1:58.28 made her the second fastest runner here on this year's rankings.
Bronze went to Arzhakova's compatriot Irina Maracheva, who had arrived at these Championships as the favourite given her victory at the Russian Championships in a personal best of 1:57.82, a time which leads the European rankings and puts her fifth in the world this year.
"I'm so happy," said Arzhakova. "Everything went as planned. The only thing I didn't plan was to win the race, but I believed I could take a medal. I was really nervous before the race. I have been doing the 1500m, but in the Olympics I guess I'll run the 800m. At the moment I'm not really sure which one is my main distance."
With 200 metres to go the race positions looked broadly clear as Maracheva, who had moved into the lead as soon as the lanes broke, led Arzhakova and Maryna Arzamasava of Belarus, who had been the fastest of the previous day's qualifiers with 2:00.54.
Maracheva, who had taken the field to the bell in 57.29sec, reached 600 metres in 1.27.34 and it seemed simply a case of how the leading trio, who by then had a 10m gap on the rest of the field, would share out the medals.
As the leaders reached the straight the gap between themselves and the nearest runner, Britain's Jemma Simpson, had increased. But then the picture changed. Arshakova took off in an outside lane to take 20m out of Maracheva by the time she reached the line. Arzamasava responded to move briefly into silver medal position before running catastrophically out of energy and staggering almost.
By the time the shattered Belarus runner finished in 2:01.02 she was in fourth place, with Maracheva passing her for third place behind the ever-accelerating figure of Sharp in an outside lane.
Maracheva commented: "I'm so happy about my medal. I made some mistakes during the race, but getting the position was very important, not the time."
Sharp was delighted by her unexpected final flourish. "I don't really know what to say, I am so happy that I got the medal." said the 21-year-old Scot, who had graduated a week earlier with a law degree from Edinburgh Napier University. She will now be hoping desperately that her achievement here, coming less than a week after her victory at the British Olympic trials in Birmingham, will be enough to earn selection in Britain's Olympic team, due to be announced on Monday.