It shouldn't happen to a veterinary undergraduate, and in particular to an athlete of Laura Muir's undoubted calibre, but for the third time in 2014 the Kinross girl who studies at Alf Wight's alma mater found herself on the suffering end in the cattle market of championship middle-distance racing yesterday.

It was like déjà vu all over again for the 21-year-old Scot as she collapsed to the track and held her hands to her face in despair after being bumped, barged and ultimately run out of contention for a qualifying place in heat one of the women's 1500m on the opening morning of the European Athletics Championships.

It had been a similar story in the 800m heats at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, in March, and in the 1500m final at the Commonwealth Games at Hampden a fortnight ago.

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Wight made a name for himself after graduating from the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine and adopting the nom de plume James Herriot, in honour of Jim Herriot, who won nine caps as a Scotland goalkeeper in the 1960s. Muir, who next month enters her fourth year at the vet school, has put her own name in the record books this year, clocking fine Scottish indoor records at 800m and 1500m and then eclipsing Yvonne Murray's 27-year-old national outdoor 1500m record with a 4min 00.07sec clocking in Paris last month.

Clearly, if the Dundee Hawkhill Harrier is to get her name on major medals she needs to get to grips with the cut and thrust of championship racing. In the Commonwealth 1500m final she was plain unlucky to get temporarily stopped in her tracks by a clipped heel as she prepared to launch her attack in the home straight. Yesterday, however, Muir was tentative from the start. She got bumped, barged and cut up and spent much of the race in lane three, eventually finishing sixth in 4:14.69, outside the top four automatic qualifying spots and not fast enough to claim one of the four fastest-loser places from two heats.

"It's pretty gutting," confessed Muir. "When you're ranked third in Europe and you can't get one of the 12 places in the final it's very disappointing. It's harder to take when you've run fast times.

"It was a messy race. I almost fell a couple of times, trying to get past people. That's why I ended up in lane two.

"It was a below-par performance, certainly. Maybe I expected a bit too much of myself. I'll just have to speak to my coach and take it from there."

Muir's coach, Andy Young, has been stressing all year that his young charge has time on her side and that their sights are set on the long-term goal of peaking in 2017, when the World Championships come to London, and beyond.

Still, it must have galled them that the other two British representatives, Laura Weightman and Hannah England, eased through to Friday's final, finishing fourth and fifth respectively in the significantly faster second heat.