Record 13 Scots get call for World Athletics Championships

Laura Muir celebrates after winning gold in the women's 3000 metres at the  European Athletics Indoor Championships  in Belgrade, Serbia, in March.
Laura Muir celebrates after winning gold in the women's 3000 metres at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, in March.
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Scotland was already assured of a record number of athletes in next month’s highly-anticipated IAAF World Championships in London but that grew to 13 yesterday – one sixth of the 78-strong Great Britain team.

Following the British trials in Birmingham a week past Sunday, a total of 11 Scots had sealed their place at the championships which take place at the iconic London Olympic Stadium, starting on 4 August, before Guy Learmonth added his name to the list at the weekend.

The 800m runner had finished second in the trial but was short of the qualifying time until he nailed it at the Anniversary Games on Sunday to secure a return to the same track next month. Jake Wightman and Lynsey Sharp, in the men’s 1,500m and women’s 800m respectively, both had the times but had been edged out of the top-two qualifying position in the trials and had to wait until yesterday when, as expected, their discretionary picks were confirmed.

That would have made the Scottish contingent 14, double the previous bests of seven in 1983 and 2015 but, unfortunately, Robbie Simpson, who had pre-qualified after finishing second-best Brit in this year’s London Marathon, has had to withdraw due to a calf injury.

Nevertheless it remains an excellent achievement, building on the remarkable total of 15 Scots who made the British athletics team for last summer’s Rio Olympics.

Scottish Athletics performance director Rodger Harkins said: “We should never be under the impression that selection for a British team at this level comes lightly. It comes after many years of hard work and dedication, sacrifice by athletes and families, and strong commitment, guidance and experience from coaches.

“Looking through those selected, I can see examples of that in each and every one of those 13 Scottish names. I’ve said previously I did have a slight concern that the year after an Olympics might be a little problematic. It can be the case and has been sometimes in the past – essentially we are in the first year in a four-year Olympic cycle.

“But I think the confidence boost from being in Rio, or seeing others in Rio, has inspired our athletes to new levels. The motivation to compete at a ‘home Games’ in London is also very strong. It’s a huge opportunity. For them it’s not enough to qualify for the Games – they want to get into finals if they can and prove themselves on the world stage.

“That’s the right attitude and I’d urge them all to be as competitive as they can.”

The Scots are led by Laura Muir, one of the rising stars of British and world athletics, as she targets a 1,500m and 5,000m double.

The double European indoor champion shook off a foot injury to post an 800m personal best at the Lausanne Diamond League last week but was given a sharp reminder of how difficult her task will be when she was beaten by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri in the mile at Sunday’s Anniversary Games.

Muir scored another PB but fell short in her bid to break Zola Budd’s 32-year British record over the 
distance.

Elsewhere, the experienced European champion Eilidh Doyle goes in the 400m hurdles and also the 4x400m relay, where she will be joined in the squad by 22-year-old Aberdonian Zoey Clark.

Clark has enjoyed a stunning breakthrough year, winning the British title and looking forward to her first major individual outing in a British vest.

The men’s 1,500m has an 
all-Scottish line-up, with Chris O’Hare, Josh Kerr and Wightman, as does the women’s 5,000m where Muir is joined by Steph Twell and Eilish McColgan.

Sir Mo Farah leads the home team in the great man’s last hurrah on the track as he aims for yet another 5,000m and 10,000m double. Fellow megastar Usain Bolt will also take his bow in the stadium that created so many unforgettable memories five years ago. Defending long jump champion Greg Rutherford, who was one third of the “Super Saturday” trio along with Farah and Jessica Ennis, has been selected despite growing doubts over his 
fitness.

The 30-year-old suffered an ankle injury last month which has left him struggling.

Dina Asher-Smith has won her fitness battle after a broken foot to claim a place in the women’s individual 200m and 4x100m relay squad.

Adam Gemili has only made the team in the 4x100m relay squad with Zharnel Hughes preferred in the 200m after Gemili came sixth in the British trials.

“This feels bigger for us than Rio,” said British Athletics performance director Neil Black.

“We’ve selected some incredibly talented athletes, and in many events there have been some close calls.

“It’s now up to them to grasp this opportunity and produce performances that will make the whole nation proud.”

There remains a window until 
25 July for exceptional performances and IAAF invites for other athletes to force their way on to the team.