Golds, and resolute dominance, are becoming Laura Muir’s stock in trade. Records too, of which she now holds a decent clutch. History, genuine inscriptions in the pantheon of track and field, are rare and maddeningly difficult to obtain. Yet last night in Glasgow, inside the building where she frequently trains, the Scot became the first athlete in the half-century’s existence of the European Indoor Championships to acquire a pair of titles at successive editions. An unprecedented double-double. New ground indeed.
The second leg, the 1,500 metres final, was as much a coronation within the Emirates Arena as a procession. Muir duped us all into a sense of danger in Friday’s 3000m when she indulged Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen with a game of cat-and-mouse before scampering majestically to victory with a vicious burst of raw, potent speed.
With a day’s rest, and a solitary focus, she was unstoppable, just as we had expected, leading from start to finish to win in 4:05.92 with Ciara Mageean, Northern Ireland’s first championship medallist, just pipped to silver by Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui.
“It’s special,” the victor acknowledged. “I set myself a big task this weekend and as it came closer and closer, I was thinking ‘what have I done?’ People were getting world leads and national records and the fields were much stronger than last time. But there was no way I wasn’t winning in front of this crowd and I’m so pleased I could do that.”
At 25 years old, Muir has embedded herself gleefully into that purple patch in the garden of an athlete’s career where the seed of self-confidence germinates and an aura of invincibility blooms. Her challengers were only allowed to hang on for so long. We are all living in Muir’s world now.
A tiara was tossed out toward her from the appreciative crowd. More regal than in Belgrade two years ago, when officials had attempted to deny her a lap of honour. That would have brought riots here. Off she trotted, demand for high-fives or selfies far outstripping supply.
It was her seventh major medal inside a two-year period that also incorporated her anointment as a fully-qualified vet. The CV is crammed but there are still gaps to fill in. A global title and, beyond that, an Olympic gold. There will be an opportunity for another advance in October at the IAAF world championships in Doha, no matter which distance she chooses to target.
“I feel it’s there now,” she declared. “It’s a matter of maintaining now and making improvements where I can. Since finishing my degree, we’ve made improvements in a few areas but they can always be improved more. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect. There are little things and it’s matter of working really hard over the six months until Doha.”
The other Scottish middle-distance hope, Neil Gourley, saw his ambitions in the men’s 1500m derailed by an illness that forced him to withdraw. He sat out an extraordinary upset as Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski claimed his third European Indoor title by relegating precocious Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen into second place.
However, Eilidh Doyle, right, claimed her 14th major championship medal in some style by anchoring the hosts to silver in the women’s 4x400 relay, the last part of a record medal count of 12 for GB&NI that saw them trail only Poland in the final table with a total of four gold, six silvers and two bronzes.
Doyle was accompanied on to the podium by Aberdonian Zoey Clark, Laviai Nielson and Amber Anning.
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, a silver medallist in Belgrade two years ago, went one better with a march to gold in the women’s 800 metres with the 29-year-old Londoner relentlessly heading the field. “I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line knowing I’d won gold,” she declared. “I decided beforehand I wanted to go out and focus on getting out in front because I wanted it to be a bit quicker. I would then just work really hard on the third lap. I knew at 150m I just wanted to go, and remembered to pump my arms and turn my legs.”
Chemistry teacher Jamie Webb took a shock silver in the 800m behind Alvaro de Arriba with Irishman Mark English landing bronze. The 24-year-old, who works at a school in south London, was irate after his disqualification at last month’s British trials but doggedly held on.
“I only really got parental support so I was at a point where I thought you look back in ten years and think I was never as good as I wanted to be, or I take the bit between my teeth and crack on,” he admitted. “That’s the attitude I have had for a year and a bit. If you want to do it you can.”
Holly Bradshaw couldn’t quite match her 2013 victory in Gothenburg but cleared 4.75m to earn silver in the pole vault behind Russia’s Anzhelika Sidorova, while Tim Duckworth silver in the heptathlon, scoring 6156 points, to trail Spain’s Jorge Urena.
The night, however, was rightfully Muir’s.