FOR eight minutes and a shade over 52 seconds, Laura Muir expended every joule of energy she contained in the pursuit of the medal she so badly craved. Floored and forlorn at the finish in Prague, she came up just short of her target.
The 21-year-old was fourth in the 3000 metres final at the European Indoor Championships last night after spending much of the race at the front. In the end, she had to be helped off the track by British team-mate Emilia Gorecka. There will be other chances but there is always no time like the present.
For the trainee vet, each outing of significance is an education. Yet unlike in 2014, when her ambitions to shine on grand stages were undermined by tactical naivety, this was an occasion when the trio who claimed gold, silver and bronze – Russia’s Yelena Korobkina, Sviatlana Kudzelich of Belarus and, most frustratingly, Maureen Koster of the Netherlands, simply were stronger and quicker.
“There have been times when I’ve been one of the slowest and got through and ones where I’ve been one of the fastest and missed out,” reflected Muir, who had been ranked second in the field. “It’s all about on the day but here it wasn’t quite in the legs. But it does give me a lot of confidence. It would have been great to come third but it’s the next best thing and I can be pleased.”
It meant that Great Britain and Northern Ireland were only able to raise their medal count by two to five on the penultimate day at the 02 Arena with Lee Emanuel claiming silver in the 3000m and Welsh newcomer Seren Bundy-Davies surviving rough and tumble in the 400m final to claim bronze.
With a little more experience, she felt, better returns might have arrived. “I realise it’s a massive achievement but I did come in it wanting to win it,” she declared. “I had to work so hard to get that qualifying spot and that did take it out of my legs a bit but that’s no excuse.”
Guy Learmonth will harbour similar goals in this afternoon’s 800m final with the Borderer showing little trepidation in his championship debut. Handed a tough draw in his semi, he attacked with venom and rolled onwards victorious. Cracking the podium would require another step up but the 22-year-old has nothing to lose.
“I’m in the final, I want a medal and I believe I can,” he insisted. “Glasgow last year was a big confidence booster for me and the aim was just to make the final. I knew I could make the final at these championships and now I want to bring some silverware back home.”
Similarly, Chris O’Hare underlined his intent to end up on the podium from today’s 1500 final by landing victory in his heat, easing his own fears following two recent outings which did not go to plan. “Birmingham was a bit of a mess if I spare the expletive,” said the Scot, who will face a strong challenge from team-mate Charlie Grice as well as Ethiopian-born German Homiyu Tesfaye. “I was prepared for this one. Charlie’s through so we’ll go after some medals.”
Edinburgh AC’s Allan Smith exited in the high jump final qualification, failing at 2.28m. There was a reprieve for Jenny Meadows who was edged into fourth place in her 800m semi but then promoted into the final when Russia’s Anastasiya Bazdyreva was disqualified for stepping off the track. But, suffering from flu, the 2011 champion rates her hopes of a repeat as slim.
Czech favourite Pavel Maslak raised the roof by defending his 400m title while France’s Renaud Lavillenie could not improve the pole vault world record amid three attempts at 6.17m.
Other British medal hopes on the final day include Dina Asher-Smith in the women’s 60m and Richard Kilty and CJ Ujah in the men’s. The championships close with the 4x400m relays with Kirsten McAslan in line to anchor the British women and Jamie Bowie hoping to add European gold to the world silver he landed last year.
“We’ll just focus on getting the team round and giving ourselves a shot,” the 25-year-old Highlander said. “I suspect it will be even more cut-throat than usual which makes it all the more important we get a clean run and not hold back.”
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