Laura Muir claimed her first world championship medal with a brilliant bronze in the 3,000m on the opening day of the world indoors.
The race was billed as the major event of these championships and after the slowest of starts it delivered in a thrilling, three-way sprint finish. The 25-year-old from Glasgow coped with the pressure of being a home favourite as she finished in third in 8min 45.78sec, with the Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba claiming gold and Sifan Hassan taking silver
Earlier the first gold of these championships was won by the Russian high jumper Danil Lysenko, who is competing as an authorised neutral athlete because his country is still suspended over state-sponsored doping.
In a surprise result the 20-year-old cleared 2.36m to beat the favourite, Mutaz Barshim (2.33m) into silver. The German Mateusz Przybylko took bronze with a leap of 2.29m.
There was a second Russian gold minutes later when the reigning Olympic and world champion, Mariya Lasitskene, confirmed her status as favourite with a winning leap of 2.01m. The American Vashti Cunningham took silver with a clearance of 1.93m, the same height as the Italian Alessia Trost who won bronze.
But there was frustration for Britain’s Morgan Lake. The 20-year-old made the wobbliest of starts, running into the mat at 1.84m before clattering into the bar on her second attempt. Yet she recovered and subsequent clearances at 1.89m and 1.93m gave her a sniff of a medal. But those earlier failures cost Lake as she finished fourth overall.
However, British eyes on the first night of these world indoor championship were always going to centre on the fearless Muir, who has obliterated numerous British records during the past two years only to fall just short in world finals.
Her pre-race preparations had hardly been ideal. While her rivals were putting their feet up on Wednesday, Muir’s flight from Glasgow was cancelled, necessitating an eight-hour taxi journey through blizzards, high winds and increasingly icy roads.
Her path to a first world championship medal looked almost as treacherous. For not only did the field include the defending champion Dibaba – with the fastest time over 3,000m this year – but also the reigning world indoor 1500m champion Hassan of the Netherlands, and the world 5,000m champion, Hellen Obiri.
That depth meant Muir was only fourth-favourite for gold even though she had showed her form by running a world-leading 800m time of 1:59.69 in January and had the second-fastest time in the field. She knew she would have to produce a run close to her best to win a medal – and so it proved.
Today On FridayKatarina Johnson-Thompson has a golden chance of her first world title in a weak-looking pentathlon.
The 25-year-old has been talked up as Britain’s next athletics superstar going back as far as 2012 but has yet to fully deliver.
But with none of the four athletes that finished ahead of her at last year’s world heptathlon championships in the field, she goes in as a massive favourite.
Plenty of things are in her favour. The last time she competed in an indoor pentathlon, three years ago, she won the European title and came within 13 points of the world record. And her score that day – 5,000 points – is 233 ahead of her nearest rival in the field, the Austrian Ivona Dadic.
Johnson-Thompson looked pensive when asked whether this was her best chance of her first world multi-event medal given the absence of the reigning Olympic and world heptathlon champion, Nafi Thiam.
“All I can do is compete against who is here,” said Johnson-Thompson. “That’s what I’m doing. Now I feel like I’ve got a better chance than in the past but, in combined events, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, backed her to grab the opportunity. “It’s a global title and there aren’t many of those,” he said. “She has got every bit of talent to win, it hasn’t always happened for her at that level but it will do and this is as good a place as any.”