Hype now surrounds Laura Muir wherever she goes. The burden of expectation is the perk and the chore of emerging as the leader of a new young pack of British athletes with the immense challenge of following an illustrious generation that was illuminated by the spotlight of a home Olympic Games at London 2012.
So often, the 25-year-old has lived up to the promotion and the pressure. Yesterday in London brought a rare deflation. Top of the bill on the second day of the Muller Anniversary Games, she was given the prime slot of the last race for her attempt to remove Zola Budd from her long-held position at the head of the UK’s mile rankings. The record appeared attainable on recent form. In the sunshine, for once, her edge was dulled. The Scot was short, and well so.
Not that it will bother her too much, not with the European Championships starting in Berlin in 15 days’ time. For much of the outing, she looked as confident and composed as ever. Yet when the chase for home began, she was left behind and could salvage only fifth place, outside even of her own Scottish best as perennial rival Sifan Hassan claimed victory in a Dutch record of 4:14.71.
“I am little disappointed,” she acknowledged. “But I went through the first half of the race too fast and when you do that, it catches up with you in the second half. I know it’s there if I run in a perfect way. And I just didn’t run that here.”
Muir, who had spent much of last week in Largs in an attempt to alleviate a bout of hay fever, has formally petitioned for a start at the Europeans in both the 1500 and 800 metres, despite previous assurances that a single event would suffice. With the formidable Hassan restricting herself to the 5000m, she is the ante-post favourite for both.
And it was not all doom and gloom for her Glasgow-based team with her young training partner Jemma Reekie assuring herself of a trip to the German capital in 13th place. It was a personal best for the 20-year-old over the imperial distance. Of greater import was that she completed the initial 1500m in 4:06.11, inside the qualifying standard required.
“I wanted to run as fast as I could to 1500 metres,” the reigning European junior champion confirmed. “I’d have walked down the home straight if I could have.”
Lynsey Sharp appears a solid bet to join Muir in the 800 in Berlin after enhancing her chances of being picked by the British Athletics selectors when they convene today to round out their squad. The 2012 European champion delivered her speediest time of 2018 of 1:59.34 to come third in a race won by American Ce’Aira Brown. Coming fifth at the recent trials in Birmingham weakened her hand but, since then, she has looked more like her ferocious old self. “I changed a few things and that’s worked out fine,” she said. “But it’s taken six weeks for it to show.”
Neil Gourley also held up his hand for the 1500m by recording a personal best of 3:35.98 to finish eighth as Olympic champion Matt Centrowitz snatched victory. With Charlie Da’Vall Grice a no-show and Josh Kerr injured, the 25-year-old Glaswegian should surely get the nod following his third place in the British Championships. “That was the main goal of this season,” Gourley said. “Hopefully if the selectors take a chance on me, I can prove them right.”
Guy Learmonth should also be Euro-bound after his fastest mark ever left him seventh in the 800m, two spots behind Jake Wightman, whose time of 1:44.61 now sees him trail only track legend Tom McKean in the all-time Scottish rankings.
“It shows how good it is that I’ll need to drop nearly another second to get it, which is ridiculous,” he declared. “One day maybe I’ll get there. But it’s probably safe for this year.”
Zoey Clark will likely run the 4x400m relay in Berlin with the Aberdonian seventh in the 400m in a lifetime best of 51.36 secs, but Eilidh Doyle will ponder whether to go to the championships after coming only seventh in Saturday’s 400m hurdles on her comeback from injury.