Olympics: Laura Muir brings ruthless streak to Tokyo after ‘nasty’ gold-chasing practice

Growing up in the countryside just outside of Inverness, where she was born, with its farms and expansive green spaces, Laura Muir is quite a product of her surroundings.

It may also be a cliché. If there can be such a thing when it comes to a qualified (and practicing) vet who this week will be fishing for gold over 1,500m.

Once she was helping a farmer during lambing season. With so many ewes giving birth to so many lambs, breeders keep track of who belongs to whom by spraying a lamb’s wool with the color that matches its mother. The tricky part is that lambs, even when they are only a few hours old, are quite quick.

“We had a great system, me and the farmer,” she began to explain at a briefing with reporters in Tokyo. “He was driving the quad and at the last minute I was jumping. I was catching lambs because I was fast and then we would sprinkle them and go up and go!”

It’s a sweet story, particularly relayed in Muir’s Highland tones, carrying a puff of Rocky in the walk-in freezer, tenderizing beef with his bare hands. Obviously, his actual training was a lot more serious and a lot less healthy. But it speaks of Muir’s disposition, willingness to help, and the blatant lack of ego.

It is important to hold on to it because, since Rio 2016, Muir has had to change course. After a disappointing seventh place at the previous Olympics, the 28-year-old has made some changes. She demanded even more from the coaches around her, brought out a ruthless streak not many people had seen before, and even allowed herself to be a little more selfish.

The results resulted in medals. Gold medals over 1500m and 3000m at the European Indoor Championships in 2017, then again in 2019. Gold at the 2018 European Championships at 1500m, then silver and bronze in the 1500m and 3000m , respectively, at the World Indoors 2018 in Birmingham.

“I’m such a different athlete than where I was in Rio,” says Muir, still with those tones but with less joy and more business.

“Physiologically, I am able to cope with a lot more than I was able to do at the time. I had a lot more training, doing a lot more at altitude and also running in the heat. I am a much more different, much more developed and much stronger athlete. “

Indeed, Muir goes on to state, “I’m in the best shape of my life,” which is a bold statement at the best of times, and not always to be believed. Athletes have a way of saying things in the media that they themselves need to hear or believe.

Muir is consoled by Jennifer Simpson after the 1500m in Rio 2016

(Getty Images)

While there’s probably a bit of that at play here, as Muir details the job she’s done, you start to believe her. There have been more “mean” training sessions, which have tended to revolve around racing situations. Where she used to train at a singular pace, she is now challenged to maintain higher speeds for longer, as well as perfecting the way she shifts from one speed to another – up and down. low. Every now and then her trainer will call for a beep and change a session halfway through, just to shock her.

All this on top of the hot weather training that she has had over the years to get used to the heat she will experience on the track at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

“I’m definitely thinking about tactics and learning what your body can do,” she says, after explaining the changes and their positive effects. “As much as you would like to do something, sometimes your body won’t allow you to do it. I think I learned a lot from this run in terms of what I need to make the most of my training area to face what other women can do.

“He’s prepared for all different eventualities. As much as I was prepared for many situations in Rio, unfortunately it was not the one that prevailed in the end. It’s just a matter of trying to cover all of your bases. ”

It all comes from Rio’s bitter disappointment, as well as fourth and fifth places in the 1500 at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. For all the seasonal successes, there’s a glass ceiling that she doesn’t quite have to. made crossed.

If you want to know how determined she is to break it, she also decided not to compete in the 800m, despite registering a woman’s second fastest time in meeting the Diamond League in Monaco in early July.

Muir to meet Gateshead Diamond League in May

(AFP via Getty Images)

Muir’s time of 1:56.73 was just 0.52 seconds off the British record set by Kelly Holmes, who won the 800m and 1,500m titles at the 2004 Athens Games. But Muir’s quest for gold led her to make the economic decision to focus on one event – here better.

“My best chance for a medal is the 1500m, it’s my strongest event and I want to be 100 percent for this final,” she said in a neutral tone.

“We wanted to give ourselves the option of a double. The more we looked at it, the more physically and mentally difficult it would be. Tours are consecutive days. Especially with the heat and the conditions too. It would have made things really difficult on the recovery side. ”

If she had doubled, she would have had the 800m heats on Friday, the semi-final on Saturday, the 1500m heats on Monday, the 800m final on Tuesday, the 1500m semi-finals on Wednesday and finally, the 1500m final on Friday. With the heat of the morning and the final stages of the evening still taking place at 30 degrees Celsius, it seems wise to focus on one.

One could argue that putting all his eggs in one basket may increase Muir’s anxiety in a rush that comes naturally to him. But she feels better equipped to deal with this added pressure and more determined than ever to win an Olympic title that will confirm her as a top runner.

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