Defending European indoor champion’s coach Andy Young says his athlete is in a “great place” ahead of opening night showdown
Laura Muir has set foot on the Emirates Arena track countless times before. No-one has run more laps or clocked up greater mileage at the Glasgow venue which is also her training base. This time will be just a little different, though.
Opening night of the European Athletics Indoor Championships will be a busy one for the 25-year-old who has high expectations to deal with, as well as high quality opposition.
She will feature in the opening heat of the 1500m at 7.10pm where progress with little fuss and a minimal amount of energy being expended is the aim of the game.
That’s because, a little under two and half hours later, she will be lining up for what promises to be a compelling 3000m final which looks likely to provide a spectacular conclusion to day one of these championships.
Even Muir’s coach, Andy Young, admits an “epic” race awaits.
It’s well known now that his athlete is attempting a “double double” – a successful defence of the European indoor 1500m and 3000m titles she won in Belgrade two years ago – and many have effectively awarded her both gold medals already.
The European outdoor 1500m champion’s health, form and confidence levels might indeed be exactly where they need to be right now but there is a particularly serious threat to her 3000m ambitions in the shape of Germany’s current world leader Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who broke a national record with her recent run of 8:32.47.
Many of the rest of the field – including 2017 bronze medallist Eilish McColgan and the in-form Welsh record holder Melissa Courtney – aren’t too shabby, either.
As a coach, Young (pictured below) could no doubt do without the stress. As an athletics fan at heart, he is nothing but excited about the piece of sporting theatre in prospect.
“I was looking (at the 3000m field) and there’s 12 of them that have run sub nine minutes,” he says. “Then you’ve got Klosterhalfen running 8:32 – I know Laura’s run 8:26 (the European record of 8:26.41) but if you take away Laura’s time then people would be going ‘wow’ in regards to that 8:32.
“It’s exciting and people are talking about this as the race of the championships, which is great. You’ve got two young women almost headlining the championships.
“You can’t quite call it the rumble in the jungle but I was trying to come up with an alternative and I couldn’t think of one. It does line up to be an absolutely epic race and I was trying to come up with a comparison. Maybe Mary Decker-Slaney v Zola Budd in the 80s perhaps? Let’s just hope it ends better than it did for those two in 1984.”
Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s pentathlon fate will be known by time the starting gun is fired for the women’s 3000m on Friday evening and the multi-eventer can be assured of great home backing, but there can be little doubting that the loudest cheer of the evening will be reserved for Glasgow resident Muir, an ambassador for these championships.
All eyes will turn to her but, having learned so much since the last time the pressure was cranked up in the same manner – back at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games when Muir’s talent was really starting to emerge but she was tripped while in medal contention in the 1500m final – Young can see his charge taking it all in her increasingly speedy stride.
“It (the pressure) has become a little bit like water off a duck’s back,” he says. “That doesn’t mean it will result in two golds – you’ve got to go out and earn every single medal. People are almost already hanging two gold medals around her neck though these are real, tough competitions. But she’s now cool with it all and is in a great place.
“She knows that she’s running really well – doing some of, if not the best, running she’s ever done – and she’s healthy, so when you put that together then you can be a bit more relaxed.
“I’m sure there will be an unbelievable atmosphere and when she hears the roar when she’s announced, I don’t know if that will make a difference, but she seems all cool, calm and collected about it.”
He adds: “The pressure cooker for Laura, in essence, was 2014 – she was the only Scot living in Scotland up towards the podium, she suddenly burst on to the scene, started winning race after race in the indoors and that was something new and intense. But in comparison to that it’s slightly water off a duck’s back.
“Physically she is a better and stronger athlete. And it is a lot easier to be relaxed when you are more physically developed and you have got a lot more tools in your arsenal.
“When you are one of the best it is a bit different to being, basically, what she is at the moment which is the best. She is remarkably cool about it all. But she has a great battle coming up.”
Young is also relishing a coaching contest. Klosterhalfen is led by Pete Julian as part of the Oregon project training group which is headed by Alberto Salazar, while the Scot is building a rather successful and youthful squad of his own north of the border.
“I guess it’s a battle of the brains to an extent, trying to come up with the best tactics to beat the other,” says Young. “Each knows that’s the other’s athlete is a great athlete so it’s thinking about how best to approach it so your athlete has the best chance.
“They’ve got all the resources in the world, so you’ve got almost two super groups forming – one in Portland and one in Glasgow.
“It’s two top quality groups on either side of the world, with slightly different resources but at the same time developing girls and boys from the 800m to 5000m and beyond so this will be a great battle.”
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