This might, says Laura Muir, be her finest hour. A third European Indoor Championship gold, a fourth major title, but the first on home soil.
Glasgow’s Emirates Arena rose in unison last night to roar the 25-year-old to victory in the 3,000 metres final on the opening evening of the showpiece. By its end, she was flat on her back, having given everything to succeed. When she got up, it was to an ovation. And she is not done yet, not by a long shot.
However, it needed a championship record of 8:30.62 and a ferocious last 250m to repeat her triumph of Belgrade two years ago. Konstanze Klosterhalfen, the prodigious German, clung onto the lead for dear life when the pair broke clear with eight laps left.
“I was going at a good pace,” said Muir. “Then Konstanze really ramped it up and I thought: ‘Oh Jeez’.”
“I knew I just had to hang on and then, in that last 200, I just put the welly down and gave it absolutely everything I’ve got. I didn’t know where she was behind me so I just ran as fast as I could to the finish line.”
Behind the front two, British team-mate Melissa Courtney took bronze and Eilish McColgan, exhausted by an early push to the front, came seventh. Muir must now recover for the second leg of what would be an historic double-double in tomorrow’s 1500m final, for which she had qualified by winning her heat three hours before the 3,000m.
This sets it up nicely, she said. “To break the championship record and run a world leading time, it’s great. In a way, it was quite nice to have the heat earlier on, to see what the atmosphere was like. The reception I got on the start line before that heat almost kind of overwhelmed me a bit. So it was quite nice to be prepared for the final. But that last lap was crazy – they just went mental.”
Andy Butchart has esteemed friends in his high places. They will urge him on from afar in this evening’s 3000 metres final. Now based in San Diego, the 27-year-old’s face looked sunburnt from his sweaty exertions in lowering his own Scottish native best by running 7.51.28 in his semi yesterday, eventually easing off as Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen pipped him to the finish to establish yet another European Under-20 record.
They will have familiar faces at their side in the chase for medals. His training partner Chris O’Hare won the other semi by bolting past Ingebrigtsen’s eldest brother Henrik on the closing lap. Now Butchart will attempt to implement some of the advice dispensed by his close ally Mo Farah to collect an overdue maiden championship medal.
“It’s nice to have him pointing me in the right direction here and there,” said Butchart. “He’s not telling me what to do but he’s giving me hints on how to run races or people to watch out for. Saying ‘look what I did there’. Although he’s funny, he’s a very smart intelligent athlete.”
One Ingebrigtsen will certainly return home empty-handed. Middle child Filip was disqualified for stepping off the track in his 1,500m semi, with Glaswegian Neil Gourley the chief beneficiary in acquiring first place. In tomorrow’s final, Jakob – pursuing his own double – will nevertheless await. “It was only going to be two of them, now it’s one,” the 24-year-old said.
His recent form, plus the depth of experience he has acquired on the US indoor circuit, make him a solid bet for the podium. “I’m just going to race with a lot of motivation on Sunday, regardless of who is in the race,” Gourley added.
Guy Learmonth eased into tonight’s 800m semi-finals and avoided any further mishap to his broken finger or injured ribs in coming second in his heat.
“My hand feels fine, my legs feel good,” he said. “It’s been a rough few weeks but I’m ready.”
Muir’s training partner Jemma Reekie failed to join her cohort in the 1500m final despite a personal best of 4:13.44 for the 20-year-old. Eilidh Doyle narrowly missed a spot in this evening’s 400m final, coming fourth in her semi in 53.28 secs. While Zoey Clark was left to get join Doyle in tomorrow’s 4x400 relay after she exited in the heats in fifth place. “I’m so disappointed with that,” the Aberdonian said. “Tactically I didn’t get it right.”