It was long anticipated – stated in fact – that Laura Muir would throw all her mighty energies into a single event at next month’s European Athletics Championship in Berlin. Following a few weeks in which the 25-year-old hinted, without complete clarity, that she might take on an arduous double mission, it was confirmed yesterday that she will indeed be a solo artiste in the German capital among a 102-strong British squad.
The 1,500 metres will be the Scot’s distance of choice, with the 800m in which she earned the UK title last month discarded following a flare-up of her Achilles in the wake of the Anniversary Games in London last weekend.
Now back at her altitude base in St Moritz, it means she will no longer face the testing prospect of two races on a single day at the showpiece, which would have pitted risk against reward.
“Laura had a genuine intention to create relative history and do the double,” insisted British Athletics performance director Neil Black. “She is a massively competitive athlete. Simple fact: she has got some Achilles irritation and she’s made the sensible decision to focus on the 1,500m. It is disappointing. But I love the fact that she makes good decisions and I’m sure therefore that we’ll see her at her best running the 1,500m in Berlin.”
All within the rules, he maintained, in the wake of accusations that regulations were bent to allow Muir to take on, and win, the shorter distance at the domestic trials. “The policy is not specific about highlighting whether one event is primary or second. Laura has made the decision that she’s made and we’re just positively looking forward to her racing.”
She will be joined in the event by her young training partner Jemma Reekie and will be the clear favourite for a maiden major outdoor title, given the anticipated absence of her habitual Dutch foe Sifan Hassan. Lynsey Sharp will be in Berlin, too, pursuing a repeat of her 2012 European gold, with the 28-year-old rewarded for an exponential improvement in her form since coming fifth at the trials.
As anticipated, Eilish McColgan fills the vacant berth in the women’s 5,000m, with Guy Learmonth profiting from an injury to Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kyle Langford to secure a spot in the men’s 800m. World medallist Zoey Clark gets the shout for the 4x400 relay, despite the Aberdonian narrowly missing out on a solo outing, while 2017 Diamond League winner CJ Ujah has been handed the third place in the men’s 100m.
Black admitted the toughest selection dilemma came in the men’s 1,500m. Chris O’Hare and Jake Wightman were already cemented but it will not be an all-Scottish line-up with Neil Gourley surprisingly losing out to Olympic finalist Charlie Da’Vall Grice despite picking up bronze at the trials and smashing his personal best with a fine run in London on Sunday.
“The decision in the end has to be based on the primary thought about who is most likely to win a medal in Berlin,” Black revealed. “After lots of discussion, the selection panel thought that Charlie Grice was most likely.”
Among the Scottish contingent, there will be major championship debuts for Nikki Manson and David Smith in the high jump, Kirsty Law in the discus and in-form Beth Dobbin in the 200m.
The team also includes 2014 European champion Eilidh Doyle but the 400m hurdler, who is coming back from injury, signalled she could pull out if she runs badly in Karlstad on Wednesday. But Black said: “Eilidh and ourselves are planning positively going forward. There are no deadlines or evaluations, tests or otherwise.”