Laura Muir bounces back to win the 1500m on a golden summer night at the Commonwealth Games

Laura Muir - Laura Muir bounces back to win 1500m on golden summer night at Commonwealth Games - GETTY IMAGES

Laura Muir – Laura Muir bounces back to win 1500m on golden summer night at Commonwealth Games – GETTY IMAGES

Forever the bridesmaid, Laura Muir finally discovered what it felt like to play the bride of a global game. Yes, she finished eight seconds off the time she needed for Olympic silver, and yes, she clearly benefited from the absence of Kenya’s brilliant Faith Kipyegon, but these were frivolous details as she absorbed the rapture of a 32,000-strong crowd Birmingham crowd on a gold. summer night

So often, with the agony grimace that has become her trademark last lap, Muir has had to fight tooth and nail for the minor medals. But here she decided, with more than a lap to spare, that the 1,500m victory was hers, and charged to the front and never looked in danger of being chased down. She rarely makes middle distance running look easy, revealing the after-effects of doubling up in the 800m as she struggled through the final strides. Still, never mind the aesthetics. It was all about grabbing the international outdoor gold that her prodigious talent deserved.

“I knew my strength was in my kicking and I’ve got a good amount of speed so I tried to rely on that and hope nobody caught me,” reflected Muir, who came over a second clear of Northern Ireland’s Ciara Mageean on 4: 02.75. After missing the 2018 Commonwealths to sit her veterinary exams, she channeled all her efforts into filling one glaring void in her medal collection. “It’s rotten at the time, but I would have said to myself, ‘Your time will come, you’ll learn from it and come back stronger. It’s been eight years since I raced at the Commonwealths and it’s been bothering me. This means a lot.”

When Caster Semenya won the 1500m on the Gold Coast four years ago, Muir was a detached observer, completing his qualifications as a vet. In 2014, at home in Glasgow, she finished only 11th, after falling in what she called the “most heartbreaking race I’ve ever run”. Against that background, this was a chance she decided not to miss. Rarely has a rendition of Flower of Scotland moved her so much.

“I tried to hold it together during the medal ceremony – it was very special,” she said. “It’s not very often you get to run in a Scottish jersey, let alone be on top of the podium in front of a British crowd. The last Commonwealths I worked in the hospital. I had it on the phone between consultations and operations. So this is the one I wanted. This is the one I set out at the start of the year to achieve.”

Muir had the unusual distinction of appearing in two medal presentations in one evening. The 800m ceremony had to be quickly rearranged after the Jamaican team objected to her bronze, which was only secured when she threw herself over the line on Saturday night to hand Natoya Goule. The Jamaicans argued that the photo finish was not decisive, but officials eventually decided, 2½ hours into the race, that the result should stand.

“I was almost back to the athletes’ village when they said the ceremony would be postponed,” she explained. “It was stressful, as I still had to continue to recover for the 1,500. It wasn’t until the bus arrived that we got confirmation that I had it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to bed without knowing it. That was a relief.”

Birmingham hasn’t always had the happiest of memories for Muir. It was here in 2018, en route to silver at the indoor worlds, that she revealed her frosty relationship with the champion, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba. Jama Aden, Dibaba’s coach, had recently seen two of his athletes suspended for doping violations, and Muir admitted she found it difficult to ride with her. This time there was no shadow of controversy or resentment, just a collective toast to Muir’s crowning achievement.

“To come back and win means a huge amount,” she said. “I felt good during the warm-up and still thought I was in good shape. I made a decisive move with 500 meters to go as I wanted to break away a bit and keep it to the finish.”

This final evening of athletics brought a memorable athletics programme, marked by capacity crowds even for the morning heats, to a Caledonian crescendo. No sooner had Muir accomplished her mission than Eilidh McColgan added silver in the 5,000m to her gold in the 10,000m, rushing back to the stands to share the moment with her mother Liz, a two-time Commonwealth champion.

“I share an apartment with Laura, so I knew she had it in the bag,” McColgan said. “It’s her event. Her bronze in the 800 had already inspired me, but it was amazing to hear the crowd when she won the 1500. I gave it my all. I wasn’t even sure I was going to run, after the whole feeling of the 10,000. But I was leading almost every lap of the race, almost waiting for the others to pass. I can’t ask for more. It is absolutely overwhelming.”

McColgan, who had to help her lactic acid-filled compatriot Eloise Walker into a wheelchair afterwards, has been honored with flag-carrying duties for Scotland at Monday night’s closing ceremony. But when the sun went down on those Birmingham Games, the greatest glory belonged to Muir.

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