British Athletics had a successful opening session of the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018, as the Arena Birmingham crowd were treated to a home team medal in the first track event of the weekend, as well as a top-four finish in the field.
With both Laura Muir (coach: Andy Young) and Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall) flying the flag over the straight-run 3000m final, hopes were high that the British team would see an early podium performance.
And it was Muir who duly obliged, digging in during a surge-filled race, to take a memorable bronze medal, her first ever global prize.
With aggressive surges a regular feature over the 15-lap race, started by Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, and taken further by eventual winner Ethiopian Genzebe Dibabe, the last lap burn-up saw Muir battle Sifan Hassan in a gritty silver – bronze decider.
Pushed wide by the Dutch athlete, Muir could not overtake her in the latter strides of the home straight, but her joy at securing her first global medal was immediate:
“We had to put yesterday behind us; six hours in the car, windscreen wipers were frozen but we got here and I’ve won a medal; I couldn’t be happier. I ran the race as hard I could; I was so tired at the end. It means so much to me to get the win; it bodes well for the rest of the year, especially the Europeans.
“I’ve been 4th, 6th and 7th at major championships so the bronze is very special. To finally get that world medal means so much; I’m delighted.
“I just wanted to stay out of trouble at the start; Klosterhalfen took over the pace so everything went to plan. I knew I could be strong at the end so I’m very pleased.”
Meanwhile, McColgan had tucked in during the initial laps behind Muir’s early lead, but when the surges came, found it hard to stay with the pace and finished in tenth:
“I don’t quite know what went wrong to be honest. It felt very flat and sluggish and when the race went I tried to go and there was nothing there. I suppose I have to forget about it now and try to not make the same mistakes again tomorrow and come out again and be competitive,” she said.
“Since coming back from my last training camp things haven’t clicked. Training has been going really well up to that point but I have felt a little bit flat. I am so disappointed with that today, with it being a home championships, I wanted to be competitive and today I wasn’t.”
Earlier in the evening, Morgan Lake (Fuzz Caan) had achieved a historic fourth place finish in the women’s high jump final, just narrowly missing out on a podium spot, but gaining valuable major championship experience in the process.
For Lake, an uneasy start made her opening height of 1.84m more challenging than usual. Her first attempt resulted in a run- through onto the landing mat, and although she managed to attempt a clearance on her second effort, it was her third and final successful attempt at her opening height that had the Arena crowd breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Shaking this unsteady start off however, she achieved a first-time clearance at 1.89m before a second-time clearance of 1.93m – a height that saw her join the final four athletes in a battle for the three podium spots and more importantly achieve GB & NI’s highest ever finish at a world indoors in the women’s high jump.
However, alongside USA’s Vashti Cunningham and Italy’s Alessia Trost, she was unable to clear 1.96m, and missed out on a medal position on countback alone.
Lake said: “I was pretty nervous at the beginning, I’m not sure why. I had a good jump in warm up so I was feeling confident and the first height wasn’t ideal but I got over it got over that height and performed pretty well.
“The 1.96m I knew it was a PB but I was feeling confident. I am never going to talk myself down in my head. I always think I am going to clear the bar but on this occasion, I didn’t. Fuzz was reminding me of the process and saying that I have done all the work and this is the moment to enjoy it. That definitely helped in the competition.”
Mariya Lasitskene (ANA) won gold with a near faultless progression of clearances though to 2.01, and she bowed out after three crowd-pleasing attempts at 2.07m.
It was a less happy experience however for Britain’s Robbie Grabarz (Fuzz Caan), the Olympic and world indoor medallist struggled and finished ninth.
He had initially kept his UK fans on tenterhooks with two failures at the opening height of 2.20m, and it was hoped that like Lake he would use the unsteady opener to boost him onwards, but three failures at 2.25m saw the 2016 World Indoor silver medallist bow out earlier than was hoped.
Danil Lysenko (ANA) won gold with a 3rd time clearance at 2.36m, ahead of Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim with 2.33m.
Grabarz said: “It’s not enough, you know. A couple of issues cropped up which affected my training in the build-up – I couldn’t compete at the British Championships. It’s a shame it has happened now but I can’t do anything about it. I’m trying to not get too down.
“I expected it to be a tough battle for the medals. It was a shame that the competition didn’t really take off until most of us had gone out. I would have loved to be part of that battle at the end so that is the real shame.”