JUST over two seconds and two places separated Laura Muir from a medal in the final of the 1500 metres but there was still satisfaction in spades. It means 2015 will remain a year of nearly-but-not-quites for the Scot who was fourth at March’s European Indoor Championships before coming fifth in Beijing. Better that, however, than the season of not-even-closes she endured in 2014. Small but significant steps have assuredly been made.
With a little over a lap remaining in a race as stacked with real talent as any to be found in Beijing this week, the Glasgow University student was a shade off the pace and it doomed her challenge. Genzebe Dibaba, who claimed the world record with a startling scamper in Monaco last month, hit the front and swiped away her challengers.
Milnathort’s Muir attempted to make up lost ground but had left herself with too great a gap to close. “I expected it to be hard, it’s a championship final,” Muir said. “There are so many girls in there, you don’t know who is going to do what, but I was prepared for a fast race or a slow race.” It veered towards the latter but the omnipotent Ethiopian won in 4:08.09 by ruthlessly imposing her will.
“Any other year I probably would have medalled,” said Muir, who finished exactly where she lies in the world rankings. “There were so many top girls in that race. Everyone was thinking: ‘who is going to do what?’ And it’s just about trying to stay out of trouble and run as safe as I can, to try and get the inside lane as long as possible and keep an eye on the break when it happens.”
Ahead, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon held off Dutch hope Sifan Hassan for silver, with deposed champion Abeba Aregawi among Muir’s scalps in sixth, underlining how far she has progressed after imploding at last summer’s European Championships when she failed to survive the opening heat.
“She acquitted herself really well in a different style of racing,” said marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe on the BBC. “And she’s only 22 years old. She’s come in here, having had not a good track record at major championships. Things haven’t gone right for her. She managed to navigate the rounds well and she did nothing wrong here.”
Muir will revert to her day job now as a trainee vet before attempting to finishing off the campaign in style with a spot in the Diamond League final in Brussels already secured. Along with her coach, Andy Young, she can now utilise the knowledge gained in safely negotiating three rounds when planning for greater gains at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. “I left last year really frustrated as I knew I could run so much better than what I’d shown in championships,” she said. “But it’s great to have come here and have done well in the final.”