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Six to follow: Down but the only way is up for Laura Muir after 1500m final heartache

FOR Laura Muir there will be no prolonged post-mortems or picking over the bones of what might have been.

Laura Muir is left crestfallen on the Hampden track but the Scot has plenty of reasons to be excited about the future Photograph: Nick Ponty
Laura Muir is left crestfallen on the Hampden track but the Scot has plenty of reasons to be excited about the future Photograph: Nick Ponty

Her Commonwealth Games debut ended in heartache last Tuesday evening when she crashed out of the women's 1500m final after being clipped by another athlete.

As the race reached the final straight, Muir, struggling to carve space, made contact with the foot of one of her rivals and lost her stride, conceding vital ground. Having been in contention throughout, she finished second last.

Afterwards she and coach Andy Young made the decision that Muir wouldn't compete in the 800m heats the following day, instead choosing to turn her attention to the 1500m at the European Championships in Zurich which get under way in a little over a week from now.

When we meet in the international zone of the Athletes' Village, the 21-year-old Glasgow University veterinary student is in philosophical mood as she sips on a hot chocolate.

"It's strange and feels a bit surreal that it's over," she muses. "This is something I've been working towards for two years and that's it over in four minutes of running. It's hard to get my head round that it's gone already.

"I think the only reason I'm sort of OK with it all is because I know it wasn't my fault. The preparation was as good as it could have been going into it, the training was perfect and everything was as it should be. In the race itself I was in the perfect position and just got clipped.

"There is 100% nothing else I could have done. It's not like I have any regrets or anything. I definitely laid it all out on the track. It was just unfortunate timing, but that's the sport. I've got the European Championships to look forward to now. I'm already back in training for that."

Given her stratospheric rise through the international athletics ranks, it's easy to forget that it was only 18 months ago that Muir, from Milnathort, Kinross-shire - one of the Sunday Herald's Six to Follow for Glasgow 2014 - was flying largely under the radar.

She became the revelation of the indoor season in 2013, winning the 1500m title at the UK Indoor Championships and reaching the final at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg. Muir went on to claim bronze over 1500m at the European Under-23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, and made her senior World Championships debut in Moscow in the 800m.

This year, meanwhile, has seen her top the world rankings and send a flurry of indoor and outdoor records tumbling. Most recently, Muir obliterated Yvonne Murray's 1987 Scottish record with a time of 4:00.07 in the 1500m at the Diamond League in Paris last month. Yet Muir is still only 21 and remains very much in the developmental stage of her career. According to her coach, the average age of British Olympic athletics medallists is 29 and, for middle distance and endurance runners, it's 31.

Sitting beside her at a wooden picnic table in the Athletes' Village, Young is a man who has the tricky job of not only nurturing Muir's burgeoning talent but also of keeping at bay the burden of expectation being heaped upon her.

"I've always said this was the first target, she wasn't really supposed to win it," he says. "Laura has moved quite far ahead of schedule. That's why we tried to limit the expectation this time around - albeit she was in contention. Had things gone Laura's way and had she not had a bump, it might have been quite different."

He believes the experience Muir has garnered from Glasgow 2014 will benefit her greatly in future major events, not least the 2017 World Championships in London and the Rio Olympics a year later. "It's good in the sense that I would imagine this as being similar, with it being a home Games and the level of expectation that comes with that, to going into an Olympics as a potential medallist," he says.

"There was a lot of attention and pressure, but that side of it all went smoothly. That wasn't what stopped her chances of chasing a medal; it was something outwith Laura's control. She was right where she should have been with 120 metres to go. This is an experience athletes don't usually get until they are at the height of their careers."

It wasn't until Muir arrived at university in 2011 that her athletics promise truly began to blossom. It was Young, himself a former World Schools 800m champion, who helped her start to realise the huge untapped potential she possessed. "I think at that point I would have been excited simply to have a ticket to go to the Games never mind being in contention to get in the final and be a medal contender," says Muir. "I've come a long way. I have to put it in perspective of where I was then and where I am now."

Her overwhelming emotion when looking to the future is one of eager anticipation. "I'm just excited to see what I can do," she says. "In the past two years I've gone from 4:14 to 4:00 for the 1500m. I've taken seven seconds off my PB from last year. I'm just thinking: 'What on earth can I do next?'

"It's quite an exciting prospect, especially because it's less than three years that I've been training properly. It will be good to see that continue and there is so much more I can build on next year.

"Bearing in mind that the people I'm competing with now were in the Olympics two years ago and at that point I was at 4:14" - she grins broadly - "it's a bit nuts."

Muir has no hesitation when asked to name her highlights of the Games. "I didn't get to go down and watch, but I loved seeing the men's marathon on TV - that was definitely one of the standout moments," she says.

"It was good to see the Aussie [Michael Shelley] win because so often in distance running it's the African nations who dominate. To see an underdog go out there and run such a clever race, that was a great performance.

"The highlight from a home perspective was seeing Libby Clegg win. She did such a fantastic job when the pressure was on for her. Then to see Eilidh [Child] get her silver too. That was incredible."

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