Laura Muir takes first tilt at major championship

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LAURA Muir heads into European Indoor action at her first major championships for Team GB in Sweden tonight – just a year after competing at the Scottish Under-20 championships.

The 19-year-old Glasgow University student is Britain’s sole representative in the women’s 1,500m in the heats in Gothenburg. Fellow Scot Eilidh Child goes in the 400m.

It has been an impressive rise by Muir, which scottishathletics bosses believe can help “inspire a generation” as the sport in Scotland builds on London 2012.

Olympic chief Lord Coe was in Glasgow this week to speak about “legacy” issues as well as how Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games can be a motivating factor for elite Scots.

Lower down the scale, there is also evidence the hard work is taking place to improve overall standards and every national event staged by scottishathletics over the past 12 months has enjoyed an increase in entry numbers. This weekend 849 teenagers will gather at the Emirates Arena for the McCain Age Group championships from under-14s to under-20s.

That is a 52 per cent rise on last year’s entry, with a 68 per cent increase enjoyed by the McCain National Open in January (all age groups) and the largest field for 16 years at the National Cross country event in Falkirk last weekend.

“Three things are coming together that can all be credited for the busy weekend ahead for us – the standard of the venue at the Emirates Arena certainly counts, as does the bounce from London 2012 that we are all still seeing,” said Nigel Holl, chief executive of scottishathletics.

“That bounce is lasting only due to the excellent and diligent efforts by athletics clubs the length and breadth of Scotland – they deserve huge recognition. It is clubs that enable these 849 young athletes to be ready to do themselves proud in the inspiring Emirates Arena.

“But thirdly I don’t think we can lose sight of the impact some of our role models have. If you look at the numbers in the U18 age group – at a stage when so many young people discover interests that can draw them away from a sport – it is great for them to have role models such as Laura Muir and Allan Smith [Scottish Native record holder at high jump at 20]. Allan and Laura are only a couple of years older but are demonstrating that they are now verging on the elite end of the sport.”

Muir has had to take time off from her studies in veterinary medicine at Glasgow University to compete in Gothenburg and she has revealed she is turning down approaches to move to the US. “I love my course at Glasgow, working with animals is all I have wanted to do,” she said. “To be able to do well both academically and with my running is great. I could not do one without the other.

“I had multiple offers from American universities offering scholarships to pay a lot of expenses, but I have never wanted to leave Scotland.”

• Three Scottish schoolboys – John McCall, Ben Greenwood and Michael Olsen – set Scottish Age Group records in Birmingham last weekend at the English championships and all will feature at the Emirates this weekend. Kilbarchan’s Gavin McArdle, who set a Scottish Under-18 3,000m record earlier this year, is also in line to compete.