Muir stands on edge of greatness

Laura Muir, Britain’s reigning golden girl of athletics, has a history of finding ways not to win at the major outdoor championships. However, The Mixed Zone’s Susan Egelstaff believes this could all change at August’s World Championships in London

This could be the summer that sees Laura Muir catapulted into the big time. The twenty-four-year-old Scot has burst on to the international athletics scene in the past year, and has written herself into the record books more times in the space of a few months than most athletes manage in an entire career.

Her most notable performance was victory in the Paris Diamond League meet last August, in which she broke her own British 1500 metres record – which previously belonged to Dame Kelly Holmes – and made her the fastest women over the distance in 2016. She continued her astonishing form in the indoor season, winning double gold in the 1500 and 3,000 metres at the European Championships.

However, Muir has not reached this point easily; she has had to bounce back from a number of setbacks. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, there were expectations of a medal of some hue from the home crowd. But after being clipped by another athlete in the final 100 metres when in contention, she finished 11th. Then, just a couple of weeks later, she was eliminated in the heats at the European Championships.

Questions began to be asked. Did this young athlete with so much potential have the mentality to perform on the big stage? Muir’s performance in Rio at last summer’s Olympic Games did little to silence the doubters. Again in medal contention, Muir made a break for it with 600 of the 1500 metres to go, but her legs failed her as the final straight approached and she ended up in seventh position. Was she destined never to make it on to the podium? Some thought so.

But Muir’s brace of gold medals at the European Indoor Championships proved she has it in her to perform when it matters most: at the major championships. “I’m so happy – it felt a long time coming for me to win a medal,” she said in the aftermath of her victories.

The diminutive Scot goes into this summer’s outdoor season with more pressure upon her shoulders than she has experienced before. No longer is she a face in the crowd; she regularly adorns the back pages – and occasionally the front pages – of newspapers in her home country and is a regular on news bulletins. And she is no longer anonymous when walking in the streets around Glasgow University, where she studies veterinary medicine.

Muir’s current form suggests she will cruise through the World Championships trials, which take place in Birmingham this coming weekend. But it will be the World Championships in London in August that really test how much Muir has matured. There is little doubt that she has the ability to win the world title, although executing that is easier said than done.

If she claims the top step of the podium in London, she will find herself gaining superstar status, a standing that the softly-spoken athlete may find takes her some time to get used to. The potential for greatness is there, though; Muir is currently our best female athlete, and this summer she has the opportunity to put herself on the path to becoming Britain’s greatest female athlete of all-time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Egelstaff is an Olympic badminton player who competed at London 2012, as well as representing Scotland at three Commonwealth Games, winning two bronze medals. She retired in the aftermath of the London Games after a 12-year international career. Having written the occasional article for newspapers while still competing, she decided to try and make sports journalism a job. Susan is now a columnist and sports writer with The Herald, The Sunday Herald and The National and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland. Susan is also heavily involved with the Winning Scotland Foundation, a charity which helps children achieve their goals. Susan’s latest articles.

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