Laura Muir refocuses on Olympic goals after making most of disrupted season

Among the slew of sporting events thrown into disarray by Covid this year it is the postponement of the Olympics which has caused most disruption.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Laura Muir en route to victory in the 1500m at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin last month where she recorded a world lead time.
Laura Muir en route to victory in the 1500m at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin last month where she recorded a world lead time.

Training and development are built around peaking at the end of a four-year cycle, so when the 2020 Tokyo Games were pushed back to 2021 there was much anguish.

For Laura Muir, a genuine medal prospect, it was a case of years of planning and preparation being tossed out the window.

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Muir, a trained vet, had put the rest of her life on the backburner as she chased the Olympic dream.

“It was hard because I had set everything on hold really to focus on Olympics this year,” she explained. “My whole life was revolving around that goal, to be honest. I had no other plans.

“When that went there was that sinking feeling of ‘Oh, what now?’

“Then we had the Europeans still on just for a while and then they were cancelled, not even postponed. It was gutting because the Olympics only come around once every four years and it was something I was really looking to perform well at.

“At the same time, around March time, I could see the way Covid-19 was developing around the world and I wasn’t going to be surprised by a postponement.

“I’m just glad it wasn’t cancelled but was put back to next year. Hopefully, it can go ahead in 2021 as is now planned.”

Despite the disruption, Muir still managed to produce some outstanding performances in the truncated athletics season.

She delivered three sub-four minute runs over 1500 metres, including the world lead time of 3min 57:40sec which secured victory in a top-class field in Berlin last month. That race was her fifth win in a row. In the midst of it, she also set a new British 1000m record.

But Muir didn’t have it all her own way. A few days after Berlin, Jemma Reekie beat her in the 800m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome.

The pair’s achievements this season were recognised by Scottish Athletics last weekend when they shared the 4J Studios Performer of Year title with another middle distance runner, Jake Wightman, at the governing body’s annual awards ceremony which was held virtually via YouTube.

For Muir, who had won the Athlete of Year title outright in 2015, 2016 and 2018, the three-way tie was the right result.

“It was nice to share the title,” she said. “I think some years you have a pretty good idea of who might be the outstanding contender for Athlete of the Year.

“So I was watching it and thinking it might be Jemma or it might be Jake so then when it was announced as ‘jointly . . .’, I just thought ‘that’s a really nice and fair decision’.”

Stephen Maguire, Scottish Athletics’ director of performance and coaching, said he felt Muir was running “without a worry in the world” this season.

The 27-year-old European champion isn’t so sure.

“Was I running without a worry in the world? I guess in some senses yes and in some senses no.

“There was no major championships so you didn’t have the pressure of having to peak at a certain time. You could run, experiment with a few races, and see how it went.

“At the same time, there’s been an awful lot going on in the rest of the world in 2020 and I think everyone has been affected by that in whatever way. But it was nice to run at times without any real expectation around each event.

“My last year, in 2019, was disrupted with injury issues. I missed a lot of racing that summer and there wasn’t really the consistency you want in training. So to get three 1500m runs and all be sub four minutes and all victories then I was thinking ‘Yeah, that’s better’.”

With Tokyo looming, Muir is uncertain about her winter programme and will take time to work out a plan with long-serving mentor Andy Young, who was named Performance Coach of the Year at the Scottish Athletics awards and also has Reekie in his stable.

“Putting any plans in place for the winter or the months ahead is so difficult right now,” said Muir.

“I’ve resumed training and hope to get in a strong block now. Whether that is here, or abroad, I don’t know – when and where are a bit up in the air in terms of a foreign camp. We will have to see how things go.

“But I think Andy knows, after this year, that if Jemma and I are here for a spell then we can still put together some good training and come out strongly.

“Andy has done a phenomenal job with his coaching and his planning.

“He likes a spreadsheet yet I think this year spreadsheets went out of the window. Multiple times!”

“It was really hard for him. And it was even harder when we were asking him all the time for updates and confirmation and he was not in a position to be able to give us the answers. You can’t because you just don’t know.

“Andy had a big focus for the Olympics, too, of course, and he had to get his head around that. So huge credit to him for what he’s achieved and winning that Performance Coach of the Year award once again.”

Watch the full broadcast for 4J Studios Awards via

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