Athletics: Guy Learmonth shows steel in Sheffield

Seren Bundy-Davies and Margaret Adeoye crash out of a dramatic women's 400m final. Picture: PA

Seren Bundy-Davies and Margaret Adeoye crash out of a dramatic women's 400m final. Picture: PA

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GUY Learmonth admitted he channelled his inner teen as he took his first Sainsbury’s British Indoor Championship title with victory in a dramatic 800m race yesterday.

In the end there was just 0.12 seconds separating the top three but Learmonth never looked like letting the gold slip out of his grasp as he clocked 1:49.00 minutes to cross the line first at Sheffield’s EIS. However, the 22-year-old was pushed all the way, with second going to Glaswegian James Bowness, who was 0.6 seconds back, while Mukhtar Mohammed crossed in 1:49.12.

But it was Lasswade’s Learmonth who controlled the race to take his first national title and showed the kind of form that saw him qualify for last year’s Commonwealth Games final. And he says it was simply a case of rolling back the clock to his teenage years and trying to enjoy the race.

“I’ve run hard in training so I thought why not do it in the races. I came out quick and I’m running like I was a teenager,” said Learmonth. “Finally, I’ve got this big gold medallion on my neck and it’s been a long time coming. I feel comfortable and it’s nice to run like that and long may it continue.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be British champion. Off the back of the Commonwealth Games last year I think everyone was waiting for that and I produced the goods. My aim was just to win. I laid down the gauntlet in the heats and I’ve gone almost a second quicker in the final.

“There’s way more in the legs and I want to try and get a personal best next week at the indoors and I’m very confident I can do that.

“I want to keep bringing my times down and picking up medals and the main focus is Birmingham next week and run the time for Prague, go and do some damage there and get ready for the world championships in Beijing.”

There was more success for the Scots on the track with Kirsten McAslan taking gold with a PB time in the women’s 400m.

There was plenty of drama for McAslan to contend with as Seren Bundy-Davies and Margaret Adeoye tangled legs and fell leaving the field clear for McAslan to break free. In the end she clocked an indoor personal best time of 53.05 seconds to take the win by 0.2 seconds – Laura Maddox unable to catch McAslan at the line.

And the 21-year-old says the race was a real test of her composure under pressure. “When Sarah and Margaret fell over I was so shocked. I just had to get round them and keep going and focus on beating Laura so it was a bit crazy,” McAslan said. “It does feel nice, but weird because it was such a strange race – it wasn’t like a normal race. I’m happy to be race champion but it feels weird saying it.

“I would have liked under 52 seconds but under the circumstances I’ll take anything. I’ve got really good confidence. I wasn’t expecting to do this well. The time’s not bad either and it might have been a bit quicker if the fall hasn’t happened.

“So it’s a new experience and you have to stop for a bit but switch back on again. I wasn’t going to give up. It’s a personal best indoors and not far off my outdoors record so it’s not bad for this time of the season.”

There was also gold for Laura Muir in the 1,500m as the 21-year-old held off a competitive field to take the win in 4:13.06 minutes.

Muir looked in fine form during Saturday’s heats and showed no signs of winter cobwebs in the final where she saw off the challenge of Alison Leonard and Claire Tarplee, who settled for second and third respectively.

Despite being the youngest in the field, Muir looked composed as ever and won by 0.51 seconds to take the title. And the Glasgow University student says the experience she has accumulated is finally starting to pay dividends. “I kind of thought the girls might go for it a bit more as they needed the times. So I knew I just needed to make sure I stuck at the front and then went for it in the last 200m,” Muir said.

“It’s very different from where I was a year ago now as I feel like I can control races a bit more. I know I’ve got that speed to be able to kick away so it feels really good to be in that position and hopefully I can make use of it.

“I got the qualifying time for the Europeans in the outdoors last year, so I’ll be heading to Prague hoping to medal so we’ll see how it goes.”

Jenny Meadows underlined her credentials for next month’s European Indoors in Prague by claiming her seventh national title, the Wigan athlete front-running to a comprehensive victory in two minutes 01.43 seconds.

It was the fourth fastest time in the world this year, with Meadows already holding the top two spots, with her 1min 59.21secs topping the rankings. That is her best time indoors or out since 2011 and the fastest in the world indoors for three years.

l Sainsbury’s is a proud partner of British Athletics. The partnership reflects Sainsbury’s wider commitment to inspiring healthy lifestyles for all, and complements grassroots campaigns such as Active Kids and the Sainsbury’s School Games. www.sainsburys.co.uk

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