Sebastian Coe backs ‘purple patch’ Laura Muir to paint Tokyo gold in 2020

• Ability to change pace puts Muir among the greats, says Coe
• Coe: there is ‘no question’ Muir can win Olympic gold

Sebastian Coe believes there is “absolutely no question” Laura Muir can win Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 after her “double-double” at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

Lord Coe, who won Olympic 1500m titles in 1980 and 1984, had a grandstand seat as Muir destroyed her rivals to add the 1500m title on Sunday to her 3,000m win two days earlier, thereby repeating her success from Belgrade two years ago. But it was the manner of Muir’s victories that reminded Coe of his dominant spell during the early 1980s, when he racked up world record after world record, that really left its mark.

“There is absolutely no question she could win gold at 2020,” Coe said. “She’s come on a bundle. The difference between the good and the great is the ability to change pace, whether it’s breaking clear of defenders or running clear of a pack. That’s what she’s got.

“She is in that purple patch where you get into the warm-up area, you get on to the track and you just don’t think you’re going to lose. It’s not a complacency, you just think you’re going to be better than anything out there. And I sense that’s where she is at the moment.”

Coe also praised Muir for repeatedly being willing to test herself in the cauldron of competition – unlike many leading British athletes who decided to skip Glasgow in favour of building towards the world championships in Doha in September.

“I hope she proves me right that you can have a season where you’re not tucked or hiding away from competition for too long,” Coe said.

“I doubt very much she altered her training pattern or training load very much to be here. Let’s just hope she holds it through Doha then on to next year. There’s absolutely no reason why she shouldn’t. The biggest challenge will be what she actually decides to run – does she do the 1500m or 5,000m?”

Coe’s praise was backed up by the British Athletics performance director, Neil Black, who said Muir was on the way to being a “phenomenon”.

He said: “She clearly has the ability and she has demonstrated the performances that suggest a gold medal in Tokyo is possible. And I think she is moving towards almost being a phenomenon. She is joining the Paula Radcliffe and Mo Farah type group. Obviously there is a little way to go but that’s the journey she is on.”

Black also paid credit to the British team who won a record 12 medals in Glasgow, calling the performance “bloody amazing”.

Laura Muir
Laura Muir of Great Britain on her way to winning the 3000m final in Glasgow. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

He singled out the 19-year-old Niamh Emerson, who took silver in the women’s pentathlon, as being the latest in the production of multi-event talent following Denise Lewis, Jessica Ennis‑Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

“No one has done better performances at her age,” Black said. “She’s 19 years old. She’s clearly got the physicality and she’s calm. She’s collected. And who is to suggest she isn’t going to be up there competing for world medals as well?”

Black also praised Johnson-Thompson, who won her third major title in 12 months, and predicted she could also win gold in Tokyo. “People were uncertain about Kat going to train in Montpellier in 2017. But she has a really clear plan as to how she is going to move towards Tokyo with a view to winning Olympic gold. She is fearful of no one – including Nafi Thiam. It’s incredible what she’s done in the last 12 months but there is so much more to come.”

Coe appeared to indicate he did not have a problem with the prototype spikes Muir wore while winning double gold in Glasgow, despite a suggestion they might fall foul of an IAAF rule that shoes should be “reasonably available” to the public.

Coe made it clear the spikes would be a problem only if they provided Muir with a mechanical advantage. “I’m not sure that most shoes the top athletes have been wearing for many years have been reasonably available,” he said. “I don’t think Michael Johnson’s gold shoes at the Atlanta Olympics were readily available. I’m not sure they were much more than bling on a basic chassis.

“If you’ve got a spring coil under it, well fine, that’s clearly biomechanics advantage. But if they’re designed for the specific need of our top athletes, I’m rather comforted that shoe companies are doing that.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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