Lee McConnell backs Laura Muir to win medal in London
Now an eight-time major medallist, Lee McConnell believes fellow Scot Laura Muir has what it takes to follow her onto a big stage podium at the IAAF World Athletics Championships, which get under way in London on Friday.
The 24-year-old Muir leads a record 14 Scots in the home Great Britain team for the much-anticipated championships as she targets a 1,500m-5,000m double. The Dundee Hawkhill runner from Milnathort is viewed as the UK’s most promising young athlete, having broken through with two European indoor golds in Serbia earlier this year.
The now retired McConnell will enjoy a couple of podium moments herself on the opening night as she receives a couple of upgraded bronze medals from the 4x400m relays of 2009 and 2011 when the British quartets she was part of were edged out by the now-disgraced Russians.
The 38-year-old Glaswegian believes Muir can taste a proper, more satisfying moment of glory but has warned that it may be stressful viewing.
“I’m a huge fan of Laura. I think everyone who knows their athletics feels the same,” said McConnell. “She is such a brave, gutsy runner and you can just see that effort and determination every time she races. She has the talent, seems to be back at full fitness and I truly believe she can do it.
“Hopefully a gold of course, but she will be up against world-class fields so things will have to go perfectly, through the rounds and then hopefully in the finals.
“The 1,500m in particular is always such an unpredictable race where anything can happen, it can get so tactical, you have to judge things right.”
McConnell, who after the recent confirmed upgrades, now has four world, two European and two Commonwealth medals in 400m, 400m hurdles and relays, was planning on heading to London as a spectator but will now have the bonus of medal ceremonies to enjoy.
She is delighted to see so many Scots on the GB team and is particularly interested in seeing how a pair of compatriots fare in her own former events. Zoey Clark, the 22-year-old from Aberdeen who stormed to victory in the British trials, becomes the first Scot since McConnell to go in a major global flat 400m.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, Eilidh Doyle, who will also receive an upgraded relay bronze from the Moscow worlds of 2013 on opening night, has received the honour of captaining the home team.
“Eilidh had some troubles with her stride pattern at the start of the season which was maybe a concern but these last few races she’s been running quicker,” said McConnell of her former GB and Scotland team-mate.
“We know she’s going to have three big Americans in there. The American trials were insane this year, with the top three running under 53 seconds, which has never been done in history before.
“It was incredible. But sometimes the Americans don’t quite follow up on what they do at their trials, which are so competitive.
“So it will be interesting. I still think Eilidh will be there or thereabouts.”
The headline acts of the championships will be the last major track appearances by legends Usain Bolt and Sir Mo Farah.
“To say Usain Bolt will be missed is the biggest understatement ever,” added McConnell. “It’s not just about his performance on the track. He’s got a huge persona. A huge character who just puts a smile on everyone’s face. Everyone just wants to see him, he’s a huge draw.
“From a British perspective Mo Farah will be missed as well because he’s been the one who has delivered year after year.”