LAURA Muir always had the belief she belonged on the big stage and this was some graduation under the brightest of lights.
Muir has been the face of British women’s middle distance running for the last six years but admitted she was getting fed up of just missing out. Not anymore, as she became the first Scottish individual medallist on the track since Liz McColgan’s silver in 1988.
She finished fifth, fourth and fifth over 1500m at the last three World Championships and seventh five years ago on her Olympic debut in Rio.
Muir arrived in Japan ranked fourth in the world and came into the final knowing conventional wisdom suggested the race was at the mercy of Holland’s Sifan Hassan, seeking an unprecedented distance treble, having already won 5,000m gold.
But Muir has always been a canny tactician and judged her run to perfection and when the bell rang she was in a group of three, Hassan and Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon tussling at the front, the Scot just in their wake.
Kipyegon, defending the title she won in Rio, kicked clear to record a new Olympic record and Muir, head rocking and legs pumping, moved to the shoulder of Hassan and kicked away, carving over a second off her national best in a time of 3:54.50.
“I’ve been fourth, fifth twice, sixth and seventh every year since 2015, it was time to change that,” she said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. The past few times I have lost it in those last few metres, I was so worried that I was going to get pipped again.
“I said to myself if I never run another step again, just make sure I get to that line. I was tiring badly but luckily I made it and in a fast time too.
“I knew I was going to cry whether or not I got a medal, so it was always going to end in tears. I’m just so happy it’s happened here.
“There’s been a lot of sad tears over the past few years so it’s just great that I’ve finally got this. After Covid and everything being delayed, it’s such a huge relief to get a medal against the backdrop of everything that’s happened over the past couple of years.”
Muir will hope this performance is the catalyst to push on – next year’s schedule is packed with the World and European Championships, punctuated by the chance to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Sometimes it takes a performance like this to make you truly believe – and 2022 could yet be the year of Laura Muir.
“I’m such a different runner to what I was,” she added.
“Physiologically I just couldn’t deal with it, mentally I was going to go with it but my body just couldn’t cope. This year I was prepared for it and I’m 100% fit. In the past few years I haven’t been and that’s showed in just missing the podium
“This is what I’m capable of and I’m just so happy that I was able to go out there and deliver what I feel I’m capable of doing.
“My PB was set in 2016 as well, so I’ve waited five years for a global medal and five years for another PB – I didn’t; know if I was ever going to PB again, so to do both in one go is just amazing.”
Andrew Butchart was sixth in the 5000m final in Rio but 11th here in Japan, though that simple stat doesn’t really tell the full story.
Butchart’s season’s best time of 13:09.97 was quicker than he ran in Brazil, as Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei streaked clear to claim the title Mo Farah won in 2012 and 2016.
“It was hard that one, those boys were fast,” said Butchart. “I wanted to do better than that but I can’t really complain it was a hard, hard run and I’ll take that.
“It was fast and hard. I didn’t think it would go out from the gun considering the weather outside but hats off to those boys they pushed it.. they pushed it hard for me and I couldn’t keep up the pace.
“I wanted to do better, I want to always compete but I was just in the race. I’m disappointed with that, but to say I’m a double finalist in the 5k for Britain is pretty rare so I have to take the positives from it.”
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