NEXT month Laura Muir will take the short hop from her home in Glasgow to the Emirates Arena and pursue further trinkets of gold at the European Indoor Championships. She should be in fine fettle having cantered to the British 3000 metres title in Birmingham yesterday to secure her spot in the host’s team, an impressive bookend to a week in which she also lowered her own Scottish 800m best.
Reneging on a long-stated preference to defend only one of the two titles she captured in Belgrade two years ago, the 25-year-old revealed her intention to double up in the 1500m and 3000m during what will be a crammed weekend.
“The double-double sounds pretty nice,” said Muir, who charged away from Melissa Courtney on the pen-ultimate lap to clock 8:48.03. “It’s Glasgow and if it had been anywhere else I may not have done it. I’m the defending champion so if I could do the double again it would be fantastic. The timetable isn’t perfect but it works. I’m not getting injuries so we might as well make the most of it.”
The Scot’s polished performance added much to the lustre of this event. In a season prolonged by the choice of Doha as host of a world championships that will extend into mid-October, many other leading lights will pass on the opportunity of a major title on British soil next month.
With UK Sport expected to announce on Wednesday that they will be changing their medal-first funding policy, track and field could have their funding sliced in the interests of spreading the wealth heading into the Paris 2024 Olympics. Greater self-sufficiency will be needed. Bums on seats, lured by seeing more of the bigger names, might plug some of that gap, but it said much that Dwain Chambers, aged 40 and two years after his last meaningful sprinting competition, was top of the bill with Muir here.
The former world champion, attempting the most surprising of comebacks, false-started in the semi-finals of the men’s 60 metres with Dominic Ashwell eventually securing an unexpected victory. Reigning European champion Richard Kilty could only finish sixth as several established names faltered.
“It was intimidating with the crowd and the lights, having been away for so long,” Chambers admitted. “Even the gun sounds weird. The blocks have changed. The environment’s changed. So I feel like a fossil that’s been resurrected by coming back into the sport again. That part’s going to take me a little bit of getting used to.”
Taking a surprise silver was Adam Thomas, who moved up to third on the all-time Scottish list with a time of 6.63 secs in the semis. Certain of a lane at Saturday’s Muller Grand Prix back in Birmingham, he must at least equal Nick Smith’s long-standing mark of 6.60 to earn the Glasgow qualifying mark and obtain automatic selection.
“It just needs to be at the right race and at the right time,” he said. “I really think I can get that qualifying time. I will give it a good go for sure. I will have a ‘down’ week now and, hopefully, I can compete here next weekend and really go for that.”
Asha Philip will defend her European title in Glasgow after claiming her fourth domestic crown, nudging out Rachel Miller by a mere one-hundredth of a second. Cindy Ofili, returning from injury, held off Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the 60m hurdles final with Scottish No 1 Heather Paton fifth.
Eilidh Doyle and Zoey Clark progressed into today’s 400m final with wins in their semi-finals. Similarly, Lynsey Sharp seized a comfortable victory in her women’s 800m heat while Guy Learmonth cruised into the men’s final with equal ease, the former European finalist coping with the burden of being favourite.
“There’s pressure not to miss the Europeans, not so much from me but from my coach,” the Borderer said. “I’ve planned to attack this indoor season, especially after missing a lot of last year.”
Chris O’Hare and Andy Butchart will provide another intriguing Caledonian contest in today’s men’s 3000m while Neil Gourley and Sol Sweeney had a 1-2 in their heat to advance into the 1500m final.
“The goal is to be at the European Championships in my home town,” Gourley said. “It would mean a great deal to be there so my absolute goal is getting on that team.”
However, Eilish McColgan was forced out of the championships due to illness and will require a selectors’ pick if she is to line up in Glasgow.