Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field·Preview

Laura Muir 'in shape' to set 800-metre personal-best at Golden Gala track meet

Laura Muir will be looking to build on a season-best performance while seeking a third consecutive win over 800 metres in her event debut on the Olympic Stadium track at Thursday's Golden Gala Diamond League track and field meet in Rome.

European 1,500m champion expects tough test from training partner Jemma Reekie

Great Britain's Laura Muir, coming off a season-best 800-metre time at the Ostrava Golden Spike competition, will look to build upon that performance when she races in the event for the first time on the Olympic Stadium track in Rome at Thursday's Golden Gala meet. (Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Coach Andy Young and middle-distance runner Laura Muir believe she has more to give on the track, though time is running out for the British record-holder in the pandemic-shortened season.

Muir will be seeking a third consecutive win in the 800 metres when she makes her event debut on the Olympic Stadium track at Thursday's Golden Gala Diamond League track and field meet in Rome.

The 27-year-old has won five straight races across the 800 and 1,500 — Muir's signature event — and is coming off a season-best time of one minute 58.84 seconds at the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike competition in the Czech Republic on Sept. 8.

"If I could get another PB [personal-best] to finish off the season that would be great," Muir said over the phone this week. "I think I'm in shape to do it but every 800-metre race is different."

WATCH | Analyst Tim Hutchings previews Rome Diamond League:

Diamond League commentator Tim Hutchings joins Scott Russell to discuss record breaking performances and more. 6:21

Muir's 1:58.42 PB was set July 12, 2019, nearly a year to the day of her 2:30.82 best in the 1,000 a month ago to break Kelly Holmes' British record.

The Golden Gala will be live streamed at starting at 1 p.m. ET, with Muir scheduled to race at 1:55 p.m. There are no Canadians competing at the penultimate Diamond League of 2020.

Muir usually would only enter one or two 800s in a season but has taken advantage of any races offered after the sports world was shut down in March by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Scot noted the high-end speed of the 800 has made the slower 1,500s feel smoother.

On Sunday, Muir ran confidently to victory in the 1,500 in a season-best and 2020 world-leading 3:57.40 in Berlin, Germany to break the ISTAF meet record of 3:58.43 held by Sureyya Ayhan of Turkey since Sept. 6, 2002.

Achilles injury

The world No. 3 also shattered Holmes' 12-year-old British 1,500 mark with a 3:55.22 clocking in August 2016 that remains her PB. A month earlier, she stopped the clock in 3:57.49 at the Müller Anniversary Games in London.

WATCH | Laura Muir breaks British 1,500m record for 1st time:

Muir ran a 3:57.49 at the Diamond League meet in London to set the records. 4:38

Muir, who has run under four minutes three times in the past three weeks, told CBC Sports she is most satisfied with her consistency in running fast times in a tightened race schedule.

"I think my fitness has been really good," the 2016 Olympian said. "It's nice to mix it up a bit and challenge my fitness over the two distances. To be able to race has been great. I wasn't looking to run anything crazy fast [this season] but be in a good place to work on [things] ahead of next year."

In May, Young told Athletics Weekly that Muir would have been in catch-up mode earlier this year had the Tokyo Olympics not been postponed in March and rescheduled for next July. She returned from a torn calf at the 2019 world championships to finish fifth in the 1,500, but complications from the injury earlier this year had Muir dealing with an Achilles problem.

"Once we got a good block of training together after the injury I saw her in great shape, the best I've seen her in a while," said Young. "To see that translate to these [fast] times doesn't surprise me.

"All the races have been quite intense. I think she can still go faster over 1,500 and 800. The number of opportunities to race is coming to an end but having already done some good performances and looking in good shape is an okay place to be at the end of the season."

Thursday's race will be Muir's first against training partner and housemate Jemma Reekie since Aug. 1 when the latter prevailed by 2-100ths of a second in Trieste, Italy. The 22-year-old Reekie ran 1:58.87 at Tuesday's World Athletics Continental Tour meet in Bellinzona, Switzerland, but had to settle for fourth. Norway's Hedda Hynne, 30, won in a new world-leading 1:58.12 and Lore Hoffmann was third in 1:58.50. Both are in the field of 11 in Rome.

"It would be nice to get a win to even things out this year," a laughing Muir said in reference to Reekie. "She is a quality, quality athlete running extremely well, so it's going to have to be a fast time to win, and you can't disregard the rest of the field."

3 other intriguing matchups in Rome

Men's pole vault (12:15 p.m. ET)

What a story it would be if Armand Duplantis, the American-born Swede, should break the men's world outdoor record of 6.15 metres in his debut at the Olympic Stadium.

He has attempted to clear the height a combined 13 times across five events in 2020 and boasts a 6.07 personal- and season-best.

Thursday's lineup also features Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, who trails Duplantis 10-9 in head-to-head matchups and cleared 5.89 last weekend at the national championships. The Golden Gala record of 5.94 is held by Sergey Bubka.

Women's 100 metres (2:05 p.m.)

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah, the reigning Olympic 100 and 200 champion, returns to run her first race abroad in 2020. The 28-year-old will try to match Merlene Ottey with a third Golden Gala victory after winning in 2016 (10.87 seconds) and last year (10.89).

Thompson-Herah ran a season-best 10.88 on Aug. 8 and is the favourite to win over 2017 world silver medallist Marie-Josée Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast.

Men's 400 hurdles (1:03 p.m.)

"Of course it's possible," Norway's Karsten Warholm told reporters on Wednesday in Rome when discussing Qatar's Abderrahman Samba and his 2018 Golden Gala record of 47.48 seconds. Warholm is the lone hurdler to break the 47-second barrier twice and the man to watch Thursday.

The 24-year-old went 47.08 at the ISTAF meeting in Germany on Sunday, three weeks after inching closer to Kevin Young's 46.78 world record with a 46.87 clocking to break his own European mark by 5-100ths of a second.

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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