05 August 2021

Laura Muir’s in ‘shape of her life’ for 1500m final says Sally Gunnell

05 August 2021

Former Olympic champion Sally Gunnell believes Great Britain’s Laura Muir is in the shape of her life ahead of the women’s 1500 metres final on Friday.

The Scottish athlete will be one of Team GB’s major medal hopes on day 14 of the Games in Tokyo after she backed up an assured display in her first heat on Monday with a strong showing in the semi-final on Wednesday.

European champion Muir clocked four minutes 00.73 behind favourite Sifan Hassan and appears to have a great chance of improving on her seventh-place finish in Rio.

Gunnell, who won the 400 metres hurdles gold in the 1992 Games, told the PA news agency: “All you want to know is you are in shape and you have got a chance. Laura certainly looks like that.

“It is tough and there are some girls in there who are really good like Hassan but you know what she has had so many experiences coming into this where she would have learnt so much.

“She is in the shape of her life, you can see that by those rounds and my husband (Jonathan Bigg, who coaches Elliot Giles) said the shape that she was in out there was brilliant so she will give it absolutely everything. They will have a race plan worked out and let’s see if it is enough for a medal.”

Muir suffered disappointment five years ago when she faded with 200 metres of the 1500m final left to drop from third to seventh in Brazil.

Yet Gunnell, who bounced back from a testing first Games to become the first and only British athlete to win Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles, believes the 28-year-old will use that experience in the Japanese capital.

Since Muir left Rio without a medal, the Inverness runner has claimed silver at the 2018 World Indoor Championships, won the European Championships in the same year and earned gold in the European Indoor Championships two years ago under the tutelage of coach Andy Young.

“You learn so much on the races that don’t quite work out or where you are close. It is a process,” Gunnell insisted.

“I know there is a lot of expectation for Laura, not just from us but what she puts on herself and that is when it gets intense. That is when you want the experience you have had in the past to draw on to get yourself in that right state.

“You can see Laura has complete belief and understanding in what Andy is doing. You don’t question it, you go with it and it gives you an enormous amount of confidence. Even though Andy is in the background, he is very much a part of it.”

One coach who inadvertently stepped into the spotlight at the Tokyo Games was John Blackie, who had to make the tough judgement call that Great Britain sprint queen Dina Asher-Smith was not able to compete in the 200 metres last week because she was not far enough into her recovery from a hamstring injury first sustained in June.

A hamstring injury wrecked the chances of the Londoner making history in the 100 and 200m events but the decision to withdraw from the 200m could see her still win a medal in Tokyo with the Team GB 4x100m relay team through to Friday’s final.

Gunnell added: “Sometimes you are too close to it and can’t make a decision because you are too in it so you need that experience.

“That is where the trust goes and that belief in what they are doing because you want the right answer and it was obviously not what Dina wanted to hear but she knew John knew what the right answer was and you go with it.”

Muscle injuries have hampered Great Britain’s athletics medal chances at Tokyo 2020 with thigh and calf problems respectively ending the hopes of Adam Gemili and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in recent days.

It was obviously not what Dina wanted to hear but she knew John (Blackie) knew what the right answer was and you go with it.

With the Games delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and various events rescheduled as a result, Gunnell admitted: “Covid hasn’t helped.

“For some it has because it allowed them to train harder and be more focused because there is nothing else in their life but for others they need to race and I think with the sprinters it is really important to race.

“The body gets used to it when you are expanding and running at that sort of speed. Sometimes you can’t do that in training, it is only racing that can create those times and I feel with the sprinting it has been the hardest hit because they can’t emulate that.

“A lot of our guys have not had the races they needed because of the difficulty with travelling so I don’t think any of that helped and I really feel for them. It is a horrible situation.”

:: Find out how to get into coaching, or ways to take the next step on your coaching journey, at ukcoaching.org

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