Reigning 1500m and 3000m champion will sit out championships in Torun next month as she directs all of her energies towards the Olympics

Laura Muir will not be attempting a “triple double” at next month’s European Indoor Championships in Poland. The 27-year-old created history in Glasgow almost exactly two years ago when she successfully defended her 1500m and 3000m titles but, with the postponed Tokyo Olympics in mind, she is not planning to toe the start line in Torun on March 5-7.

“In the year of the Olympics we tend to focus on the outdoors,” she told AW in an exclusive interview. “I didn’t do a big indoor season in 2016 so I wasn’t looking to do the championships.

“I love racing indoors and it’s a nice opportunity to check where you’re at but I wouldn’t have done any of the major championships and it’s nice not to be worrying about that championships [the European Indoors] because we’re not going to be considering it, anyway.”

A few travel hiccups aside, Muir has been putting in some solid training time at a British Athletics camp in Dubai of late and, in these pandemic-altered times, has been enjoying having the single focus of athletic improvement.

There are still no hard and fast answers about how this sporting year will look but the reigning European 1500m champion is approaching 2021 with a renewed confidence following calf problems which hindered her build-up to the 2019 World Championships in Doha and subsequent Achilles issues.

In the February issue of AW, Muir speaks in further detail about how she set about overcoming some of the worries and self doubts which had crept in during that time

She finished 2020 on top of the 1500m world rankings, while there was also a British 1000m record run of 2:30.82 to celebrate in Monaco as each racing opportunity was seized during last year’s interrupted summer.

Laura Muir in Poland. Photo by James Rhodes

“Everything had been up in the air and you didn’t really know what opportunities you were going to get so I guess when races came around we just had to say ‘we’ll do this one, we’ll do that one’ and there was no sort of pressure in terms of peaking for a major championships or aiming for a specific time, I could just go into races and be relaxed,” says Muir.

“It was really good fun and nice to get a bit of confidence back, to get some races in, to be running fast and winning races as well.”

Victory is also at the top of the agenda when it comes to Tokyo, should the Games take place. Muir, not surprisingly, will continue to operate as if they are.

“We’ve got to have the mentality that the Olympics are going ahead because you would hate for them to come around and not be prepared,” says Muir. “All we can do is try and be as best prepared as is possible considering the timelines we’ve got at the moment.

“I think last year was actually quite nice in the sense that we didn’t have the Olympics or the Europeans and we didn’t know if there were going to be any competitions at all but I still found that I was motivated to train and I really enjoyed my training.

“For me it was a case of ‘okay, I don’t need a major championships to still enjoy my running’, which was really nice to kind of work out because for so many years it had been so intense with so many things going on. It was nice to have that experience last year – to know that I can still train well and perform well, no matter how things go.”

All being well, a second Olympic experience beckons later this year. Muir is a very different athlete to the one who went all in in Rio, opting to go for gold and follow the move made by eventual 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon but ultimately finishing seventh.

The Tokyo Olympics are likely to be a very different experience in all sorts of ways, but the Scot will never forget her first taste of the greatest sporting show on earth.

“When I first got into the village, I remember walking over to our [accommodation] block and the Olympic rings were in the middle of the village and I thought ‘wow, this is pretty cool’,” she says of her time in Brazil in 2016.

“Even before we got to the Olympics we had our kitting out day, you were getting all your kit and being sized up and to have those Olympic rings on the t-shirt you were holding it was ‘wow’. There are so many different things in the lead-up to it and the Games themselves, flying back home with all the other athletes too, it’s a big trip.”

Laura Muir at Rio 2016. Photo by Mark Shearman

Muir will hope she is joined on that trip by her training partner Jemma Reekie. It’s just over a year since the 22-year-old – Female Athlete of the Year in the AW Awards of 2020 – enjoyed the week of her athletic life, breaking three British records inside eight days during the indoor season, in the 800m (1:57.91), 1500m (4:00.52) and mile (4:17.88). Her 800m time was a world indoor lead and she also ran 1:58.63 outdoors.

She did nothing to quell the growing attention which surrounds her outdoors as she finished the year with six wins in nine races, including the 800m at the Stockholm and Rome Diamond Leagues, as well as that quickest two-lap showing of 1:58.63 in Chorzow, Poland.

Keely Hodgkinson’s recent world U20 record of 1:59.03 has underlined just how competitive the British women’s 800m will be and the attention will only intensify as the summer edges closer.

Muir is confident that her friend will be able to handle it all, particularly given the extended Olympic lead-in.

“Jemma’s very, very good at dealing with expectation and pressure, from what I’ve seen so far. She did the double in the European U23s [Reekie won the 800m and 1500m titles in 2019] and did amazingly at coping with the pressure of the indoor season last year.

“I do remember we were both speaking to the media at one point and they were getting very excited, which is understandable because she is running incredibly, incredibly well but I was like ‘whoa, hold on a minute here’. Obviously there’s no reason why I don’t think she can do very well but calm down a little bit, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

“It is very easy to hype up athletes when they do well, which is nice because it is recognising that they are doing well, but at the same time there is an awful lot that goes into things like that.

“She is mentally very focused and prepared. She seems to deal with things very smoothly, which is great to see because obviously in Olympic year it’s going to be intense and I think it was nice for her to have that year last year to develop things a little bit, both physically and mentally ahead of this year.

“It will prepare her a little bit better for the Olympics than she might have been able do to last year.”

» Buy the February issue of AW, featuring our Laura Muir exclusive and so much more, here

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