IN HER studies in veterinary science at the University of Glasgow, Laura Muir has been tutored in the art of dissection and the skills of making delicate cuts. With less than two laps left of the 1,500 metres final of the UK Athletics Championships in Birmingham yesterday, a crowd of challengers lurked on the her shoulder but swiftly found themselves cast aside by a brutal incision.
The 22-year-old accelerated into the distance with her nearest rival, the 2014 European medallist Laura Weightman, most of the home straight behind. With the three-day meeting doubling up as the trials for next month’s World Championships in Beijing, it confirmed the Scottish prospect’s place in the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team. For her would-be rivals, it was a signal of huge intent and a sign that, after past disappointments, she is ready to make the next step.
“I think the problem was I was running so fast so early on that people expected so much when I was very inexperienced,” she said. “Now the experience is catching up, I believe in myself and I’m really focused and I’m really looking forward to the World Championships now.”
The time was outside her best. Even before the heavens opened over the Alexander Stadium, this was not a day to duel with the clock. In China, it will be racecraft that will win the day, tactical nous that her recent maiden Diamond League triumph confirmed she has now acquired. Surely, before long, Muir will pierce the four-minute mark and then dip beyond. “I wouldn’t say it’s an aim but it’s a target for the future,” she said. “I know I’m in sub-4 shape now. It’ll come with a good race.”
It was a good day for the running denizens of Kinross-shire. Eilidh Child was similarly dominant in retaining her 400m hurdles title but for the European champion, this was pre-destined to be a glorified rehearsal. “I’m just looking from now on for fast times,” she declared.
“I’ve been training really hard so now I want to have a break and then get ready to peak. I feel there’s a fast time in there. In Russia last week, I was close to my PB. There was some really fast times in Paris on Saturday. So I see myself running those kind of times.”
When the GB&NI team for Beijing is finalised on 27 July, three Scots will be assuredly on the list, with Lynsey Sharp defending her 800 metres title in 2.02.40, with Edinburgh AC club-mate Emily Dudgeon fourth. The Scottish record holder, who turns 25 this week, has deliberately conserved her racing energies for the vital tranche of the campaign. The trajectory towards a world medal, she senses, is on course.
“The race in Paris last night showed that you are going to have to run 1:57 to reach the world final,” she said. “So it’s all about getting some good races in and peaking for the World Championships. I’m in better shape that I was last year when I got my personal best.”
Others have further work to do to confirm their Chinese adventures or place their trust in the hands of the selectors. Jax Thoirs is all but certain to be Asia-bound but, needing only a top-two placing to punch his ticket, the Seattle-based Glaswegian slumped to third with a clearance of 5.20m, far below his best. “I learnt I need to be more consistent,” he rued. “But everyone was struggling. I’m just glad I got a medal and I still hope to be selected now.”
Steph Twell is another probable on the plane as she led home Laura Whittle in a Scottish 1-2 in the 5,000m, underlining a welcome return to form after three years of injuries and misfortune. The 2010 Commonwealth medallist has one qualifying standard. She would be a harsh exclusion.
Chris O’Hare, however, will now begin a quest to earn the men’s 1,500m mark of 3:36.20 he requires after coming second to Charlie Grice. Both must chase times over the next fortnight but the twice-European medallist believes it is within his reach.
“The job was just to compete well and get the top two placing,” he said. “I had a niggle five or six weeks ago so to come to these championships having not raced for so long with no experience under the belt this season was a bit intimidating.”
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Greg Rutherford won the long jump despite claiming his best of 8.11m was equivalent to performing like “an absolute doughnut”. Dina Asher-Smith and CJ Ujah underlined their ever-growing potential by taking the 100m titles.
On Saturday, Lennie Waite took gold in the 3,000m steeplechase, with Mark Dry and Chris Bennett claiming silver and bronze in the hammer – all three are now in a race to earn the qualifying marks by the 26 July deadline.
With David Smith sharing second in the high jump behind Olympic medallist Robbie Grabarz, and Susan McKelvie landing hammer bronze, it took Scotland’s tally to five gold, four silver and four bronzes.