Lasswade’s Guy Learmonth and Milnathort marvel Laura Muir are still on course for glory in the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Prague.
A noisy 12,000 or more in the 02 Arena watched Learmonth reach the 800 metres semi-finals, Muir the 3000m final and the wonderfully talented Katarina Johnson-Thompson win Britain’s first medal, the pentathlon gold and in the process go so close to a new world record.
Only a ludicrously compressed timetable which packed all five events in before tea when they could have staged the final 800m at the conclusion of the evening, probably cost her the mark.
As it was, ‘KJT’ as she is known, totalled exactly 5000 points for a new Championship and British record – beating Jennifer Ellis-Hill’s mark by five points – and victory by a huge 304 points from Belgian’s Nafissatou Thiam with home Czech Republic favourite Eliska Klucinova third with 4687.
The highlights were a personal best of 8.18 seconds to top score in the 60m hurdles, a championship record 1.95m in the high jump; a close attempt at a new British record of 1.98m, and another near-British record of 6.89m in the long jump. But it was a tired and tearful KJ who came home first in the 800 in 2:12.78, just over a second slower than she required: “I really wanted that World record,” she said.
Learmonth ran his most mature race yet to win his 800m heat in 1:49.38 after holding back in fifth place as the bell was reached in 52.79 and moving up to third at the bell before powering past Jan Van Broeck of Belgium for victory.
“I feel good,” said Learmonth.
“This is Big Boy stuff now and I enjoy it.”
“I knew when I saw the field I was seeded,” said the Berwick-based star. “I was fastest on paper this season so in my head I had to win.
“I did that and it felt great. I wanted to run a smart race, stay nice and composed and controlled and I did that.”
Fellow Britons Mukhtar Mohammed and James Bowness both went out in third place in their 800m qualifying heats.
There was also disappointment for Scotland’s Kirsten McAslan, who after coming through her morning heat in second place in 53.27 after a slow start, was then drawn in lane one for her semi-final and ended up fourth in 53.49 ahead of team-mate Laura Maddox (6th), with only three going through.
British No. 1 and medal favourite Seren Bundy-Davies only just made it, sharing the same time of 53.00 with fourth placed Frenchwoman Floria Guei who went out. Britain’s 4x400m relay hopes look slim on this evidence.
“I’d like to have made the final,” said a disappointed McAslan. “But it was always going to be tough from lane one. I’m trying to take the positives from it as it was my first senior international as an individual and I never thought I’d be here as an individual.”
Laura Muir came through as second fastest 3k qualifier in a nippy 8:57.71 just behind Dutchwoman Maureen Koster.
“I’m happy, I wanted to stay out of trouble and get one of the automatic qualifying spots. I pretty much controlled that race quite well,” said Muir.
“I’m looking forward to the final.”