Home favourite produces stunning closing lap to complete first half of her European Indoors medal mission at Glasgow 2019
Laura Muir gave the Glasgow crowd exactly what they had come to see at the Emirates Arena when she scorched her way into history by completing the first part of her ‘double double’ mission and successfully defending her European indoor 3000m title in record-breaking style.
The Scot’s own championship mark of 8:35.67 fell when she put her foot to the floor in a closing lap of 28.32 seconds which dismissed what had, up until that point, been a stern challenge from Konstanze Klosterhalfen.
The German simply had no answer to Muir’s gear change and the home favourite crossed the line in a crowd of back markers, such was her closing speed, to clock a time of 8:30.61 which meant she also usurped the runner-up at the top of the world rankings.
Klosterhalfen came home in 8:34.06 and Welsh Commonwealth 1500m medallist Melissa Courtney continued her brilliant year with a fine bronze in a personal best of 8:38.22 which was also a Welsh record.
2017 European indoor bronze medallist Eilish McColgan had led the way in the early stages but ultimately finished seventh in 8:59.71.
The race had been billed as a straight fight between Muir and Klosterhalfen and, around the halfway mark, that is precisely what happened as the 2017 silver medallist began to push the pace and forced the pre-race favourite to track her every move, with Courtney slotting into a third place she would not relinquish.
The tension among the expectant spectators began to ramp up with the gradually increasing pace as Klosterhalfen continued to hold the lead for much of a closing 1500m which was covered in 4:05.
However, when Muir made her move the destination of the gold medal became immediately apparent.
“I tried to hang on as best I could and then, in that last 200m, I put the welly down and gave it everything I had,” said Muir of her title-winning surge. “I ran as fast as I could to the finish line and to run a championships record from the time before and to get a world lead, I’m so chuffed.
“I thought I had quite a lot of pressure in Berlin (when winning the European 1500m title last year) but this was just another level. Being an ambassador for the event, saying I was going to do the double and then a week later Konstanze ran a world lead I thought ‘oh, I’ve got my hands full here’.
“The girls didn’t make it easy for me today, they made me work hard.
“The first 1km wasn’t too bad, but it did pick up after that.
“My Mum, my Gran and all the aunties, uncles and family friends were here. It was hard to get them all tickets. My Gran is always there when I have not done so well, so this is the first time she has seen me win a medal.”
Muir’s victory was made even more impressive by the fact that, less than two and half hours earlier, she had been busy qualifying for Sunday’s 1500m final.
The 25-year-old got the first part of her evening’s work done by making comfortable progress, winning the opening heat in 4:09.29 from Belarus athlete Katsiaryna Karneyenka’s personal best of 4:09.32 to book her place.
In heat two, Muir’s training partner Jemma Reekie couldn’t secure qualification, albeit clocking an indoor personal best of 4:13.44 for sixth place in a race won by Spain’s Marta Perez, the fastest qualifier in 4:08.05. British team-mate Sarah McDonald’s season’s best of 4:17.64 gave her third place in the third and final heat, won by Serbia’s Amela Terzic in 4:16.51, meaning she was also unable to progress.
In the men’s 800m Great Britain’s team captain Guy Learmonth defied a broken finger to qualify for the semi-finals by finishing second in heat two with a strong finish in 1:48.98 behind German winner Christophe Kessler’s 1:48.62.
“I was hoping to win the race and wanted to make sure I did not damage my hand or get disqualified,” said Learmonth.
His two team-mates also qualified. Jamie Webb impressed with a win in heat five in 1:47.96 to defeat one of the medal favourites, Spain’s Alvaro de Arriba into second (1:48.15).
Webb said: “It felt good and I wanted to impress. I’m hoping to mix it with the big guys.”
Former world medallist Amel Tuka impressed in winning heat one in 1:47.95 to be the fastest overall. Joe Reid finished fourth in 1:48.56 and he surprisingly stayed in the final fastest losers spot for the whole competition.
Ireland’s Mark English looked strong in winning heat three in 1:49.38 and Sweden’s Andreas Kramer won the fourth heat in 1:48.67.
Scotland’s most decorated track and field athlete, Eilidh Doyle, was also roared on by the crowd but couldn’t make it through to the women’s 400m final, coming fourth in the third semi-final in 53.28.
Belgian Cynthia Bolingo Mbongo’s national record 52.37 and Netherlands’ Lisanne de Witte’s clocking of 52.38 took the two qualifying slots.
Switzerland’s Lea Sprunger qualified fastest in a European lead of 51.90 to win the second semi-final ahead of a national record 52.33 from Lithuania’s Agne Serksniene.
Italian athlete Raphaele Boaheng Lukudo won the opening semi-final in a time of 52.80 ahead of Poland’s Justyna Swiety-Ersetic in 52.85.
Doyle, a world indoor bronze medallist last year, said: “I always feel good and I always feel confident, I would have probably liked to have run a bit faster coming into this champs. I don’t know why I’m not in quite the same shape but it has been a long winter and last year I really needed to be in shape because of the Commonwealths and the indoors was better than expected.
“I think maybe we’re not quite as on it as we were last year but it’s always tough in the Europeans in the 400m, it’s a very strong event.”
Oscar Husillos of Spain won the first men’s 400m semi-final in 46.31 from Luka Janezic of Slovenia, while Karsten Warholm of Norway dominated the second as he won in 45.95.
The British challenge ended, though, with Owen Smith and Cameron Chalmers finishing last in their respective races.
With the first two plus two fastest losers to qualify from two semi-finals, Smith was placed third coming into the finishing straight in his race, but he faded to fifth in 47.39. In the second semi, Chalmers was drawn on the tight inside lane and found it difficult as he clocked 47.83 in sixth.
Over in the women’s pentathlon, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson secured gold and silver for the host nation and a report can be found here.
» See the March 7 edition of AW magazine for in-depth coverage of the championships