PAULA RADCLIFFE knows more than most just how challenging it is to win an Olympic medal. The Englishwoman was world champion and world record holder, in the marathon as well as winning some of the sport’s major marathons multiple times. However, an Olympic medal always eluded Radcliffe, with fourth place in the 10,000m in 2000 being the closest she ever got to the Olympic podium.

Despite knowing how monumental task it is to get your hands on Olympic silverware, Radcliffe has every belief that Laura Muir could be an Olympic medallist next summer in Tokyo, and she believes the Scot even has the potential to win gold.

“I absolutely think Laura can be on the podium in Tokyo,” said Radcliffe.

“She’s definitely podium potential and she has been for the past four or five years, but on the day, it just comes down to being 100 percent, getting everything right and making the tactical decisions at the right time. She’s probably had one of these little things off each time in recent years, and that’s cost her.”

Radcliffe is in Scotland this weekend for Scottish Athletics’ FPSG Awards Dinner in Glasgow and she admits she has been hugely impressed by a number of Scots this year, including Muir, who has had a superb 2019, starting the year off by winning double gold at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow. And despite her preparations for the World Championships last month being hampered by a calf injury, Muir ran a lightening quick time of 3 minutes 55.76 seconds in Doha, but that was only good enough for fifth place.

While Radcliffe acknowledges Muir might be wondering what she needs to do to get her hands on a global medal after missing out at the World Championships, she believes the 26-year-old should take great confidence from her performance off less than ideal preparations.

“That race in Doha was exceptional,” the 45-year-old said.

“I can see that in some ways, she must be thinking ‘what more can I do?’ But I think if she had been fully fit last month, she’d have been challenging for a medal and maybe even gold.”

Muir has eight months before Tokyo 2020 begins and Radcliffe has no doubt what she must focus on; staying healthy. The Englishwoman knows from her own experience how an athlete’s mentality can change as the Olympics approach and she has urged Muir not to fall into the trap of over-training.

“I think the big thing for Laura from now till Tokyo is to stay healthy. The real danger can be trying to do too much,” she said.

“I did that – ahead of Athens, I kept trying to add more and I got injured. It’s completely understandable that athletes try to do that. But you need to go back to basics, stay healthy and concentrate on racing well on the day, but I think Laura and Andy (Young, Muir’s coach) do that really well.”

Radcliffe has also been hugely impressed in recent years by Callum Hawkins’ performances in the marathon, in which she has so much success. Hawkins has finished in fourth place in the past two World Championships and Radcliffe believes Hawkins is another Scot who has the potential to make a real mark in Tokyo.

“I was so impressed watching that race in Doha,” said Radcliffe of the World Championships marathon.

“I think Callum himself perhaps underestimates how big that run was because he was so disappointed. To be so close to a medal is hard but for him to get so close to his personal best in those conditions is huge. Especially after what he’d been through in Gold Coast – that must have left emotional scars, to get it so right in Doha really bodes well for Tokyo."

Radcliffe also had some advice for Eilidh Doyle, who is expecting her first child in January. Doyle has stated that she is targeting selection for the relay for Tokyo but with only six months between giving birth and the Olympic Games, her timescale is tight.

Radcliffe knows what it takes to return to elite-level athletics after giving birth having done it twice during her career but she is quick to point out that one thing she learnt from her own experience is that it is impossible to make a rigid plan before the baby arrives.

“It’s great to set targets with that timescale but I don’t think people can necessarily expect Eilidh to be able to stick to it,” said Radcliffe.

“What she’s saying is that if everything drops into place, she can do it and I absolutely believe she can. But she might hit complications. All you can do is make a plan, but it has to be a really flexible plan and the priority has to be that mother and baby are well.”

Radcliffe admits one real danger of returning to sport post-baby is rushing the process. And with Doyle having so little time between the birth and the Olympics, Radcliffe is quick to warn her about how futile trying to speed up her recovery is.

“The first time, I picked up a stress fracture because I just came back too quickly. It’s about trying to get your core strength back," she said.

“Some people said I would get back quickly but then others said it would be nine months until your pelvis gets back to normal and goes back to the same position it was in before you had the baby. And for me, it pretty much was nine months to the day. So as much as you can do all this work to strengthen around it, you have to accept that for that period, you might take longer to recover.”

Doyle has a significant similarity with Radcliffe in that she is also coached by her husband. And Radcliffe believes this will be a huge advantage in juggling a baby and preparing for an Olympic Games.

“It was really helpful my husband was coaching with me because you can be flexible,” she said.

"You can spend so much time with them while also doing what you want to do at the same time.”