Laura Muir (coach: Andy Young; club: Dundee Hawkhill) brilliantly claimed her first career World Championship medal and the first for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team in Oregon with bronze in the women’s 1500m on day four.
After two fifths and a fourth previously in the 1500m at the World Athletics Championships (outdoors), Muir would not be denied again as she followed up her Olympic silver from Tokyo last summer with bronze in her fastest time of the year 3:55.28 minutes.
In the build up to Muir’s eventual bronze, Katarina Johnson-Thompson ended eighth (Aston Moore; Liverpool Harriers) in the heptathlon after the 800m finale while fellow world champion from 2019 Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie; Blackheath & Bromley) cruised into the women’s 200m semi-finals.
British captain Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Ryan Freckleton; Newham & Essex Beagles) and debutant Joe Ferguson (Lewis Samuel; Leeds City) themselves earlier qualified out of their respective 200m heats to begin the evening session on day four in Oregon.
Muir was primed to be the British talking point on day four and delivered in one of the quickest women’s World Championship 1500m finals ever. The tone was set almost immediately with Faith Kipyegon and Gudaf Tsegay hitting the front with Muir joining them as two distinct groups formed.
She stalked the Kenyan and Ethiopian over those first 800m, the trio eventually dropping Tsegay’s teammate Hirut Meshesha who tried to stay with them. Muir kept the pace as Kipyegon and Tsegay kicked at the bell with a first world medal never in doubt.
Kipyegon and Tsegay proved just too much to catch – just over a second and two seconds respectively – as they finished in that order for gold and silver but for Muir nothing could dampen her bronze.
She said: “That is a World Championship final, you have got to expect it to be hard and be quick – the splits on that race were on an extra level. It does show if I can get 3.55 under those kind of splits then there is a really fast time in there.
“I am so delighted. It was all about this [her medal], that was what I wanted. I took my time trying but I am so, so happy I got it. I had the most significant injury of my career this February. I didn’t run for two months. That is the longest time I’ve had off running since starting but I had confidence in myself and my ability that we have time.
“Faith and Tsegay are two of the greatest 1500m runners there has ever been. This time last year I didn’t have any global outdoor medals and now I have two. I am so delighted. This was the one that was bugging me. After I got the silver last year, I was like this is the year I am going to get it and I’ve got it, I am so pleased.”
Johnson-Thompson completed her heptathlon with a season’s best in the 800m, running her own race to clock 2:19.16, which would lead to an overall season’s best points total of 6222, improving on her effort from Gotzis in May.
Belgian Nafi Thiam regained her world title from the Brit with a world lead 6947 and Johnson-Thompson said: “It has been the toughest two years of my life – mentally this year and physically last year for Tokyo. I can’t expect it to just come back straightaway. I am a bit of a dreamer and thought it could have gone a bit differently but I am happy I am here and healthy and building back to where Ii want to be more than where I am right now.
“It is very easy. I just need to get more training in the bag. I need a full winter, I need to get some consistency and I need to get some confidence back as well. Hopefully the title defence at the Commonwealth Games will go a bit better than this one.”
Asher-Smith did exactly what she needed in the heats of the women’s 200m after being drawn unfavourably in lane two, less than 24 hours after her agonising fourth in the 100m. She was in complete control throughout knowing she had done enough after her start in the fourth heat to qualify for the semi-finals behind American Tamara Clark in 22.56 (0.4).
Ranked 11th overall, she said: “I got instructions from my coach to make sure that I ran a smart race and conserved energy for the semi-finals tomorrow and the final in a few days. I am very happy to have qualified, to have come out here and got through to the next round.
“It’s part of the job [moving on from the 100m]. It has been quite easy. They are two completely different events. Obviously I’d have loved to have been on the podium for the 100m but I did some really good runs and I am proud of that. This is a different event and you have got to come ready with your A game.”
The reigning champion over the distance won’t be joined in the semi-finals by teammate Beth Dobbin (Leon Baptiste; Edinburgh) unfortunately. Drawn in lane eight, she couldn’t kick on after the bend and was fourth in heat three of six in 23.04 (1.1).
Mitchell-Blake picked up where he left off at the UK Athletics Championships as he qualified as the best of the British trio in the men’s 200m heats, fifth overall after a fine run in the third of seven heats on his first individual World Championship outing since 2017.
Fourth on that occasion five years ago, the GB&NI captain for Oregon ran a strong bend to clock 20.11 (2.1) with only 0.01 separating him and South African Luxolo Adams in second and only 0.13 the difference between the Brit in fifth overall and American Noah Lyles in first.
After running his second fastest time of the year, Mitchell-Blake said: “I’m happy to come through it healthy and I’m ready for those semis. I feel like I will need to execute the turn a bit harder because I was a bit off the gas. I just need to step it up in the next round and I’m sure it will come. Being captain has come with extra responsibility, but I’m proud to be running as the team captain. Hopefully I set a good example for the team.”
Teammate Ferguson faced an agonising wait on his World Championship debut after clocking 20.33 (1.0) from the same lane as Mitchell-Blake – eight – in the very first of the 200m heats but it was worth it as he qualified for the semi-finals as a non-automatic qualifier.
Ferguson powered through after the bend and reeled in Ghana’s Joseph Paul Amoah to claim fourth, a finish that would prove crucial as his time of 20.33 was the 15th fastest overall and good enough for a semi-final spot.
He said: ““It was a brilliant experience. At the start of the year my aim was to make one of the three major Champs. Initially it was the Commonwealths, so to make it to the worlds is amazing. I’m really grateful that I’ve had the chance to prove myself out here. I know there is a lot more to come from myself. I know I’m in shape to drop a time that is really big. I just didn’t really get out quick enough. My home straight was really good, which I was expecting.”
There was disappointment for Adam Gemili (Blackheath & Bromley) – fourth in the 200m at the last World Championships in Doha in 2019 – as he did not make it a clean sweep for the British trio after finishing fourth in the sixth heat, which saw Olympic champion Andre de Grasse not start, in 20.60.
Elsewhere Jade Lally (Zane Duquemin; Shaftesbury Barnet) made her first World Championship appearance since 2017 – and first since being a mother – with qualification in the women’s discus scheduled for the evening session on day four.
She threw a best of 58.21m with the first of her three attempts to better her performance from London in 2017, however it wasn’t enough to progress as she ranked eighth in Group A and 18th overall after the completion of Group B.