Laura Muir enjoyed the breakthrough of a first major outdoor title on a glorious night for Scottish athletics in Berlin.
Muir stormed to European Championships 1,500m gold with an incredible display of utter domination and, minutes later, Eilish McColgan won a silver medal in a remarkable 5,000m.
It was a first ever victory for Great Britain in the event and ended Muir’s wait to land a big one, 12 months after the agony of a hair’s breadth fourth place in the London world championships.
The 25-year-old from Milnathort, who is a double European indoor champion at 1,500m and 3,000m and took world indoor 1,500m silver earlier in the year, produced an awesome display of front-running to decimate the field, with team-mate Laura Weightman taking the bronze medal.
It was the perfect end to a trying season for Muir, who qualified as a vet after completing final exams which saw her miss the Commonwealth Games. Just a few weeks ago she suffered the disappointment of missing out on Zola Budd’s 33-year-old British mile record when she finished fifth at the London Anniversary Games.
The best of Europe had no answer for Muir’s class, however, as she made the break at the halfway mark. A lightning fast middle 800m in 2.03 had the Scot in firm control, with Weightman tucking in behind in what turned into that rarest of things - a true run middle distance race in a major final.
With 200m to go it was clear that Muir had made no misjudgment as she streaked away for a brilliant gold in a swift time of 4:02.32.
Weightman yielded silver to Sofia Ennaoui of Poland but the gritty Northumbrian, who along with the great Dame Kelly Holmes was the only Brit to have won a European 1,500m medal, held off Ireland’s Ciara Mageean to join Muir on the podium.
“I just knew the girls had a good finish so the longer I left it the riskier it would be so I just ran as hard as I could for the finish line,” said Muir. “It was great Laura could get in behind me too.
“It was probably the most pressure I’ve been under in terms of the level of expectation to win, it was something new for me and I think I’ve handled it really well.
“I’m just thankful for the support I’ve had from back home and here as well.”
Muir’s brilliance was followed up by a fantastic silver for McColgan in the 5,000m, who took advantage of an extraordinary blunder by 10,000m champion Lonah Salpeter of Israel who mistakenly sprinted for the line a lap too early.
She had gone with red-hot favourite Sifan Hassan, who went on to take gold in a championship record of 14:46.13, but stopped with 400m to go, allowing McColgan to move past and secure silver in 14: 53.05. Salpeter went on to finish but finished fourth behind Yasemin Can of Turkey. Scotland’s Steph Twell was 11th.
For 27-year-old McColgan it was a European medal which eluded her illustrious mother, the 1991 10,000m world champion Liz. The Dundonian follows Scotland’s Yvonne Murray, who won gold in Split back in 1990 when the equivalent women’s event was 3,000m. She also won bronze in Stuttgart 1986 and Helsinki in 1994.
“Every time I come to these championships I sit in and sit in and then get outkicked,” said an overjoyed McColgan after the race. “The best for me is strong from the start. After doing all that work I thought ‘don’t let these girls pass you now, stick in’. I knew that I finish really strong and if I was in touching distance I could catch the Turkish and Israeli girls. But then, yeah, I don’t know what happened [with Salpeter]. I just thought go. I’m really happy.
“I know that my mum and dad will be going crazy. I saw the two [1,500m] girls in the call room getting medals and I just thought ‘I want on’.”
A thrilling week of athletics finished with Great Britain’s men and women winning sprint relay double gold to see the team pip Poland to top the medals table with 18, seven gold, five silver and six bronze.
Dina Asher-Smith became the first woman since the disgraced East German Katrin Krabbe 1990 to complete the sprint treble at the Europeans. by anchoring Britain’s women to victory in the 4x100m.
The day after adding 200m gold to her 100m crown, the 22-year-old Londoner powered away down the home straight to bring the team, which also included Asha Philip, Imani-Lara Lansiquot and Bianca Williams, home in a world-leading 41.88.
The British men’s team of CJ Ujah, Zharnel Hughes, Adam Gemili and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, in for the injured Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, won in 37.80secs, ahead of Turkey and Netherlands.