Scots quartet still in the mix for medals

Eilish McColgan is in action at the World Championships tonight.   Photograph: Getty Images
Eilish McColgan is in action at the World Championships tonight. Photograph: Getty Images
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When eight Scots took part in a single session on Thursday it was a record for a major outdoor championships and at least half of them will be back on the track for the last night of action in the London Stadium this evening.

Lynsey Sharp, Chris O’Hare, Laura Muir and Eilish McColgan all take part in individual finals, while British champion Zoey Clark, who led the GB quartet out to comfortable qualification in the 4x400m relay yesterday, should return in the final and could be joined by home team captain Eilidh Doyle.

The women’s 5,000m goes off first at 7.35pm, with Muir looking to salvage something from a world championship campaign which, while by no means a failure, has not quite lived up to expectations that, in common with the wider GB team, were possibly set a bit too high.

The 24-year-old from Milnathort was magnificent in storming to the 1,500m and 3,000m double at the European Indoors in Belgrade earlier in the year, but a global outdoor major was always going to require a major step up. The disruption of a foot injury a couple of months out from London didn’t help.

Muir was within a whisker of a medal in that 1,500m, beaten by Caster Semenya by seven hundredths of a second, and, upon reflection might agree that she missed a trick by not putting a bit of pace on the second lap.

Three days later the emotional and physical strain appeared obvious as she was burned by a searing final lap in a strong first 5,000m semi-final and needed a fastest losers’ spot to progress after finishing seventh.

Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri and Ethiopia’s Olympic and world 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana led the way in that semi-final and it looks like the gold could be between them again this evening, although there are threats all over the field.

Muir is no rookie, this is her third world championships, but there is a sense, as with much of this British team, that it has come, perhaps, a year too soon. The Scot ran in the 800m in Moscow 2013, the 1,500m in Beijing 2015 and has now added the 5,000m this year. She will need to draw on all of her range, talent and bravery to get in the mix tonight. Whatever happens, it will be another valuable learning step on the road to what, you would hope, is a career that will yield major medals in due course.

For McColgan, a massive PB in the semi-final to reach the final represents a huge step forward for her and the 26-year-old can attack this evening’s race as bonus territory.

Semenya, the woman who pipped Muir to bronze last Monday, returns to her favourite 800m event, where she will start as the unbackable favourite.

The South African has received warm cheers from the London crowd, which has been good to hear, in contrast with the chilliness she often encounters from her rival runners.

It is well documented that, following her victory at the 2009 world championships, she was withdrawn from competition and had to undertake gender testing.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport prevented the IAAF from restricting testosterone levels in female athletes in 2015 but the governing body is to challenge that ruling at the end of the month after commissioning research which shows that it does give performance-enhancing benefits in competition.

In the case of Semenya in the 800m, the research places that at around a 1.8 per cent edge and, if the IAAF is successful, the South African may have to take hormone replacement therapy or even surgery to continue her career.

It is a horrible situation and, while understanding the frustration of her competitors, the lion’s share of sympathy must go to the woman herself, who is blameless and simply trying to fulfil her talent and potential in what is an open, unclassified sport.

Heading into the championships a place in the final would have been viewed as a good result for Sharp but now she is in it as a fastest loser, after having her semi-final disqualification overturned on appeal, the 27-year-old Commonwealth Games silver medallist will look to make the most of the chance.

If, as expected, Semenya does win another gold tonight, it would be nice to see her rivals offer a handshake and word of congratulations rather than the unseemly blanking which went on in Rio last summer.

Chris O’Hare is Britain’s last chance for an individual medal and, while on paper that looks like it could be a stretch, the 26-year-old from West Linton is running with such brio at the moment that there is no reason why he can’t be in with a sniff come the business end of a race which is always a fascinating tactical battle.

“There are three and a half minutes of hard work left this weekend,” said O’Hare after he finished comfortably in the automatic qualifying spots on Friday. “Making the final is almost the hardest part, confidence wise and mentally. Now we’re there we just need to execute the plan.”