For a dozen laps of the 3000 metres final at the British Indoor Championships, Laura Muir permitted her rivals to cruise in her slipstream, giving them hope, perhaps, that they might ultimately match the young Scot step for step. The 24-year-old is as genial as they come. Yet we know well she is also wholly ruthless when need be.
In the blink of an eye, she accelerated and her running mates were cut brutally adrift. Victorious by over four seconds in a time of 8:46.71, it formally sealed Muir’s spot in the British team for a world indoor championships which will take place, back here in Birmingham, in two weeks time. Her would-be foes are wholly aware she merits immense respect. This was proof that the double European champion is in shape to deny them global gold.
“I wanted to test my speed over the last three laps so hopefully my coach is happy that I came away with the win,” said Muir, whose final two laps of the 200m track were under 31 seconds. “It’s been a while since I’ve been at these championship but it shows I’m in good shape.”
The only question is whether she utilises her speed and stamina chasing one prize or two. Eilish McColgan, who came second to Muir, signalled her intent for the worlds by returning barely an hour later to earn a spot in this afternoon’s 1500m final. “I thought the 3000m was enough,” her Dundee Hawkhill club-mate declared.
The selectors meet tomorrow to formalise their squad. Coy here, you sense Muir will seize the opportunity to double up with no requirement to preserve energies for April’s Commonwealth Games. “Whatever we go with, I know I’ll be able to get round. There is that discretionary place in the 1500m and I’m confident they’d pick me.”
Jake Wightman has twin ambitions for the Commonwealths but his indoor campaign will now solely revolve around the 1500m. Impressive in coming second to Chris O’Hare in Boston eight days ago, he took full advantage of the late withdrawal of his fellow Scot to land the UK title in some style by speeding away from Olympic finalist Charlie Grice.
“I knew that when I went I had to go decisively,” said the 23-year-old, who will also do the 800m at Gold Coast 2018. “You never know, because there is no video screen or anything. You can hear the banging on the boards, but I was pretty confident when I went that I was strong enough to hold on.”
O’Hare, nursing a foot problem, expects to return to the fray in next Sunday’s Muller Grand Prix in Glasgow. Wightman, like Grice, believes the double European medallist merits a call-up on present form. “You know Chris would perform well at the world indoors,” he said. “But at the same time, Charlie has done well on the world stage. It is a tough one for the selectors to decide. But I’m just pleased I got myself sorted.”
Greg Rutherford made a victorious return to long jump competition after eight months out with a leap of 7.80m but the 2012 Olympic gold medallist will not make a firm decision on whether to chase the world indoor title until after his outing at the Emirates Arena.
“If they are still willing to put me in, I will feel through Glasgow and I will know now, push it on a bit, in the next week,” said Rutherford who has already decided not to defend his Commonwealth crown following the two surgeries that wrecked his 2017 season. “It would be an incredible turnaround if I manage to make the worlds. I would be happy with that.”
Elsewhere, Eilidh Doyle, pictured inset, and Zoey Clark set up an intriguing Scottish battle in this afternoon’s 400m final by winning their semis while Asha Phillip and CJ Ujah underlined their intent for world indoors by landing the 60m titles. However Steph Twell opted out of the 3000m due to illness and will now focus on the Commonwealths.