Laura Muir keeps faith and is rewarded with Olympic silver medal in 1500m

  • Muir broke British record finishing behind Faith Kipyegon
  • ‘I thought, keep pushing, keep pushing. I gave it everything’

As one athlete called Faith blasted towards immortality, another – Britain’s Laura Muir – never lost hers. And in a women’s 1500m final of breathtaking intensity, she was rewarded with a gutsy and overdue Olympic medal.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared,” said Muir, recalling the moment she gunned past Sifan Hassan on the final bend to move into the silver medal position. “Because the past few times I have lost it in the last 200 metres. I was so scared that I was going to get pipped to fourth.”

And so Muir ran. Ran and ran and ran, with a force and intensity that was harder than she has ever gone before. As she collapsed across the line she was not only rewarded with a British 1500m record of 3min 54.50sec, but also a place on the second step of the podium as the Kenyan national anthem played to salute Faith Kipyegon.

Muir believes Kipyegon, who retained her title in an Olympic record 3:53.11, is the greatest 1500m women’s runner in history. It is increasingly hard to argue. But while Muir is too modest to say it, this night was also about her getting the recognition her talents deserve too.

“I have been fourth, fifth twice, sixth and seventh at a global champ every year since 2015,” the 28-year-old said. So I just thought ‘run as hard as you can – and even if I never run another step again, just get to the line as fast as possible’.

“I gave it absolutely everything. I was tightening up so bad. I thought, keep pushing, keep pushing. I gave it everything. There have been a lot of sad tears. But now I have silver – and a British record as well.”

As she spoke her voice began to break. Her resolve never did.

It was some race, with Hassan taking the lead at the end of the first lap, which was run in 62 seconds. That was a surprise, given the Dutch superstar’s mullish sprint finish, but it worked in stretching the field. By the end of the third lap, Muir was well positioned in third place, but now she had a decision to make as Kipyegon struck for home.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics she had gone for gold and came up broke, finishing seventh after having nothing left to give in the last 100m. As a result it would have been so easy to let Kipyegon and Hassan, who is going for a treble of medals at 5,000m, 1500m and 10,000m in Tokyo, slug it out to be Olympic champion, and to settle for a likely bronze.

Instead she went with it. And while some fans might have been nervous there was no chance of history repeating itself.

She tracked Hassan – and blasted past her. “When we had about 200 metres to go I saw that she started rocking a wee bit,” said Muir. “But you never know who’s coming behind you. I wasn’t looking at any screens. I had no idea.”

Laura Muir overhauls Sifan Hassan
Laura Muir overhauls Sifan Hassan on the final lap of the 1500m final. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

She also gave a typically classy response when asked what she thought of Kipyegon, who in between winning two Olympic medals also gave birth to a daughter in 2018.

“She is phenomenal,” she said. “I’m biased but in my eyes she’s the greatest 1500m runner there has ever been. I don’t think she gets enough credit for the athlete she is. She’s won everything. I have a lot of respect for her and I’m very happy to see her winning an Olympic gold medal and honoured to be behind her in that race.”

Next year Muir hopes to win a Commonwealth medal and a world medal to complete the set. But now, she has greater perspective. “As many medals as possible would be great but if I finish my career tomorrow I know I’m an Olympic silver medallist, which is fantastic.”

There was another medal for the evergreen Allyson Felix, 35, in the women’s 400m – taking her tally of Olympic medals to 10 in total, level with Carl Lewis. But she had to settle for bronze behind the brilliant Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who powered right back to her best as she stormed home in a national record of 48.36.

It meant that Miller-Uibo retained her Olympic title, with Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic coming second, while Britain’s Jodie Williams equalled her PB in finishing sixth in 49.97.

Williams, who led for the first half of the race, said: “I went for it, I risked it, went out strong and I just didn’t have the legs in the end. This is my first ever final, first year doing the event, I was close.”

“Right now I’m upset it wasn’t enough to get a medal, but I think in hindsight I’ll be very proud of myself. Before this year I had only run four 400s and now I’m an Olympic finalist.”

Earlier there was a minor surprise in the men’s 5,000m as Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 12:58.15. The Ugandan is the world record-holder, but he said after finishing second in the 10,000m that he had been battling a niggle for most of the season.

Mohammed Ahmed took silver for Canada with Paul Chelimo diving over the line to take the final podium spot. The Spanish favourite Mohamed Katir could finish only eighth after his strong kick was blunted by the fast pace.

As Britain’s Andy Butchart, who was 11th in 13:09.97, put it afterwards: “I didn’t think it would go out from the gun considering the weather but hats off to those boys – they pushed fast and hard.”

Contributor

Sean Ingle at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium

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