How Belgrade glory changed Muir’s golden outlook

Magic Muir is a double champion
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Great Britain's Laura Muir completed an incredible 1500m/3000m middles distance double on the final day of the Belgrade 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships.

One of the beauties of success is not solely what is achieved at the championship itself.

Yes, there is the adulation, the medal – or in Laura Muir’s case ‘the medals’ – the memories and the lap of honour.

It is what follows which really puts flesh on the bones.

In just over three months, Muir, one of European Athletics’ stars of the winter, will become one of Great Britain’s major hopes for the summer when London stages the IAAF World Championships for the first time.

Muir is pinning her hopes on the 1500m and with the first round on the opening night (4 August), she will be sharing centre-stage with Sir Mo Farah as he defends his 10,000m crown.

Ten months ago in Rio, Muir produced a bold, battling performance to lead the world in the 1500m final at the Olympic Games before running out of steam and finishing seventh.

But in March in Belgrade, after a winter of non-stop record-breaking, the veterinary student from Glasgow University won the first major senior gold medals of her career with victory in the 1500m and 3000m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

Muir, who is 24 next week, is chatting about the summer ahead and the question arises of how her major African rivals might now look upon her after her double triumph in Serbia.

“Before they might not have taken me seriously but now I have run quick times, we respect each other and they certainly recognise who I am. I am a threat when it comes to racing,” said Muir.

“Before I was thinking ‘she could run this and she could run that, she has won this and she has won that’ but now I can stand there and think ‘I have run 3:55 and have two gold medals’. It is great to have that confidence on the start line and know that’s where I belong.”

The ‘3:55’ Muir is talking about was her second British 1500m record of last summer when she ran 3:55.22 in Paris in August, having broken Dame Kelly Holmes’ mark of 3:57.90 (from her 2004 Olympic final glory) with 3:57.49 at the London Stadium the month before.

It came in a summer where Muir then won the Diamond Race and provided the rock-solid foundation, both in a physical and mental capacity, for her extraordinary indoor season.

Between January and March, Muir broke national records in the 5000m (14:49.12 in Glasgow), 1000m (2:31.93 in Birmingham– again a time held by Holmes of 2:32.96), the 1500m (4:02.39, as she won gold in a championship record in Belgrade) and the 3000m (8:26.41 in Karlsruhe).

It was an incredible achievement and now Muir has another national record in her sights at the Müller Anniversary Games/Diamond League in London on 9 July. She will be running the mile and is after Zola Budd’s time of 4:17.57 which was set in Zurich in August 1985.

“She is definitely one of the icons of British distance running. I know she has very quick times and to beat hers would be great,” said Muir, whose personal best at the distance is 4:19.12.

But it was Belgrade which has given her a fresh approach to the summer, because she proved to herself she can be a champion.

Muir said: “After the disappointment of Rio, we knew the indoor season was important and to go out there and run really well at the Europeans was brilliant. It gave me a lot of confidence for the summer. Hopefully I can do well on the global stage.”

She will travel to Flagstaff in Arizona before opening her outdoor race at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene at the end of the month, the gradual countdown to a summer which could turn her into one of Europe’s greatest middle-distance runners.

And when she steps out in London, she will have no concerns about the expectations on her after her winter of such glory.

“If you had asked me the question a couple of years ago I would definitely have been worried about it, I got really nervous, but now I really take it in my stride and I see pressure more as support," said Muir. “I know why it is there – because people are expecting me to do well. I will be fine. I am relaxed with it all.”