Laura Muir full of confidence ahead of historic world bid

In an event which will see the last track appearances of megastars Usain Bolt and Sir Mo Farah, Scotland's Laura Muir is understandably not quite top of the bill, but she's not far short of it.

Laura Muir wins the 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships.
Laura Muir wins the 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships.

Ahead of next month’s IAAF World Championships, the rising star of British athletics has joined the same sports management agency as Jessica Ennis-Hill and she is shaping up to be a “Face of the Games” just as much as the legendary heptathlete was in the same London Olympic Stadium five years ago.

The 24-year-old from Milnathort is targeting the 1,500m-5,000m double and if she can achieve her first major outdoor medals, ideally gold, it would go down as one of the great achievements in Scottish athletics history.

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After a few years of growing incremental promise, the runner, who juggles her burgeoning athletics career with a degree in veterinary medicine at the University of Glasgow, made her breakthrough earlier this year with 1,500m and 3,000m golds at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

A foot injury threatened her attempt at the historic double but she is back to full fitness, performing well and brimming with confidence ahead of the championships.

“It was a stress fracture. But luckily we got good medical and caught it before it developed into a full blown fracture,” Muir explained. “I did all the rehab, it responded well. I got back running and it has progressed well since then.”

The Scot has gone on to record personal bests in the 800m and mile events in recent weeks and enjoyed a comfortable 1,500m win in Padova at the weekend.

The mile PB came in Muir’s unsuccessful bid to break Zola Budd’s 32-year-old British record at the Anniversary Games, which were held at the same iconic London stadium that hosts the worlds which begin on 4 August.

Muir was also beaten by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri in that race but, so soon after returning from the injury, she believes it was a positive step forward.

“I was really happy with how I raced in London actually,” said the Pitreavie AAC runner. “It was a second PB in a week and obviously a step forward from the previous year’s mile.

“I had to front run half the race so it was always going to be tough but no I was really happy with how that race went off the back of a big [800m] PB in Lausanne. And I won at the weekend too so I’ve got to be happy.”

Front-running has become a trademark and it’s a style she is not going to divert from. In last year’s Rio Olympics it was generally felt that Muir’s bravery in going all out for the win ultimately cost her a possible silver or bronze but she remains undeterred.

“It’s difficult because it was my first Olympics and to have that whole experience was a challenge,” she explained.

“I went for it in the race, I’m happy with how I ran it and it’s just a case of getting more race experience. When it comes to London I’m just going to run as hard and as fast as I can and hopefully that will bring me a world medal.”

When Muir suffered that foot injury, British Athletics performance director Neil Black speculated that the chances of going for both the middle and longer distance had reduced to as little as 1 per cent. But the Scot feels she is in shape to have a crack at both.

The 1,500m final takes place on the Monday and the 5,000m heats don’t start until the Thursday, with the final on the closing Sunday.

“I showed in Belgrade that I can double up,” she said. “It’s not quite the same timetable this time but I did well between runs there so I’m sure I can again. It works really well with the 1,500m first in London, that is still my primary event.”

Muir will race over 3,000m in the Monaco Diamond League this Friday before heading to Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees for a high-altitude training camp ahead of the championships.

The Scot is well aware that winning indoors against European opposition is one thing and beating the best that Africa can throw at her in an outdoor major quite another. Her recent London conqueror Obiri is a clear challenge in both events but Muir is expecting several threats.

“There’s not a start list as such for the events as yet,” she said. “But Obiri is obviously running really well. She is looking like being a main contender but you know whoever the Kenyans and Ethiopians put out are going to be strong.”

Muir is joined by a dozen compatriots in the GB team, a record representation which comes as a welcome antidote to the frustrations of the British and Irish Lions rugby tour, when Scots played no part in the Test series.

“Scottish athletics is amazing right now,” she said. “We have one, two and sometimes three in a lot of the endurance events and also Eilidh [Doyle] and Zoey [Clark] in the 400m hurdles and 400m. So it’s really great, we spur each other on and seem to feed off each others’ good performances.

“I don’t have an answer for why so many Scots are doing well right now. We have all come from different backgrounds, different events and different coaches. I think it’s just belief. As soon as one person starts doing well then the rest of us think why can’t we. It just seems to all have come together at the moment.

“We do all get on well but I get on with the rest of the British team too, they’re a great bunch. The team spirit now is really lovely and I get on with lots of them from lots of different events, which is always interesting to learn about. It’s a really supportive team, which is great going into London.”

Memories of London 2012 will be stirred as the stadium hosts its biggest event since those golden Olympics, which Muir viewed with awe as a wide-eyed junior.

“I remember watching it on TV and even though I wasn’t there you just got a huge sense of the support the athletes were getting,” she said. “I’ve since raced Anniversary Games a couple of times and it’s a brilliant stadium. I love racing there, have fond memories and all the British athletes have a real affection for the place. It’s special and family and friends don’t get that many opportunities to come and watch me race.

“It will be a great send off for Usain and Mo but it will also be a nice welcoming for some of the younger athletes coming through. It is going to be a great championships, I think, some greats moving on and some new talents emerging.”

Muir has already emerged but next month could well mark her true arrival as Britain’s newest world-class athletics star.