A brilliant brace of gold medals from Katarina Johnson-Thompson (heptathlon world rank: 2) and Laura Muir (1500m world rank: 1) made it a memorable opening night for the hosts at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow on Friday (1).
Four years ago in Prague, Johnson-Thompson first won the European indoor title and set the British pentathlon record at 5000, and for much of Friday’s competition it appeared she was on course to revise that mark.
She got off to a decent start in the 60m hurdles by equalling her season’s best with 8.27 to sit second overall behind France’s Solene Ndama (heptathlon world rank: 31), who set a championship best of 8.09.
But it was in the high jump where the Briton truly soared, the 26-year-old first clearing 1.93m to create the biggest cheer of the morning session, one that was exceeded minutes later when she hoisted herself over 1.96m at the first attempt to equal Nafissatou Thiam’s championship best.
By then she had the lead, one she held into the afternoon break following a 13.15m personal best in the shot put. She opened her evening account with a leap of 6.53m in the long jump, giving her a 202-point lead over teammate Niamh Emerson (heptathlon world rank: 17) going into the final event, the gold medal secured once she could avoid disaster.
And that she did, leading the field home in a championship best of 2:09.13 to give her a final tally of 4983, the best score in the world since her own PB from 2015.
“I am really happy with the PBs in the shot put and 800m – the throwing has been something I’ve been working hard on,” said Johnson-Thompson. “I was going to say I couldn’t ask for more but in the long jump I could have gone a bit more, but it’s been a great day.”
Back in second, Emerson came of age in senior competition with a personal best, the 19-year-old – who last year was crowned world U20 champion – setting indoor PBs in all five events: 8.54 in the 60m hurdles, 1.87m in the high jump, 13.93m in the shot put, 6.29m in the long jump and rounded off with a 2:12.56 800m, during which she left it all on the track to narrowly grab silver.
“I always had my eye on a medal but it’s a different game doing it,” said Emerson. “It was really perfect – I out-performed myself in every event. I was just trying to be solid and it came good. I’m really excited now for outdoors.”
Her tally of 4731 left her eight points clear of Ndama, who equalled the French record of 4723 in third. In a competition of impressive depth, fourth-placed Ivona Dadic (heptathlon world rank: 6) was just behind with 4702 while fifth-placed Laura Ikauniece set a Latvian record of 4701.
If the one-two by Johnson-Thompson and Emerson saw a new level of volume bouncing around the Emirates Arena, what followed minutes later in the women’s 3000m final took it to another level. Specifically, the last of 15 laps, when Scottish heroine Laura Muir unleashed a furious kick to retain her title in superb, scintillating style.
The race played out as many had envisaged, with Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen (3000m world rank: 10) trying to draw the sting out of Muir’s kick. The early pace was cut out by Muir and British teammate Eilish McColgan (3000m world rank: 8), though it was never at a truly testing tempo. That all changed with eight laps to run, when Klosterhalfen made her move.
The 22-year-old German poured it on at the front and Muir was the only one able to follow, though Melissa Courtney (3000m world rank: 11) made a bold bid to follow suit. With each passing lap, it became more and more clear that it was playing into Muir’s hands, the British athlete possessing the kind of kick than can prove lethal in this setting.
With a lap to run she let rip, the Scottish crowd rising to its feet and letting out a raucous roar as she streaked away, opening up almost four seconds as she hit the line in a championship record of 8:30.61.
To Muir, winning a major title on home turf meant the world: “To get this result in this arena, when all is said and done it will be one of the highlights of my career – if not the best moment.”
She will now have less than 48 hours before lining up in the 1500m final, having breezed through the heats a couple of hours earlier. “I’ll rest, recover, lots of ice baths, massage and rest,” she said. “I certainly had a lot of pressure competing in front of the home crowd and then adding on the double, but I just put my head down and gave it absolutely everything I had.”
Klosterhalfen hung on for a well-deserved silver in 8:34.06 with Courtney taking bronze in a PB of 8:38.22.
Haratyk adds indoor crown to outdoor title
In the only field event final on day one, Poland’s Michal Haratyk (shot put world rank: 5) reigned supreme in the men’s shot put with a European lead of 21.65m. That winning effort came in the very first round, the 26-year-old going well beyond his previous indoor best of 21.47m to seize command.
Germany’s David Storl (shot put world rank: 6) put up the best challenge, throwing a season’s best of 21.54m in round two, but he could find no more in four subsequent throws and had to settle for silver. “I think I wanted it too much and that’s the reason I lost,” said Storl. Czech Republic’s Tomas Stanek (shot put world rank: 7) took bronze with a best of 21.25m.
Elsewhere Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen (1500m world rank: 8) remains on track to succeed in his twin-pronged assault on the middle-distance events, the 18-year-old coasting through the heats of the men’s 1500m and 3000m earlier today.
Ingebrigtsen, the European outdoor 1500m and 5000m champion, dominated his more senior rivals in both heats, clocking a facile 3:42.00 for 1500m and 7:51.21 in the 3000m – a European indoor U20 record – to advance to the weekend’s finals.
His older brother Filip (1500m world rank: 5) was disqualified from the 1500m for stepping on the infield with a couple of laps to run. “I am angry and confused,” he said.
No such problems for Henrik Ingebrigtsen (3000m world rank: 15) who coasted through his 3000m heat and into Saturday’s final, second behind Britain’s Chris O’Hare in 7:53.39.
There may also be gold on the horizon for Norway in the men’s 400m, with world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm (400m world rank: 29) by far the quickest in this evening’s semi-finals, clocking 45.95. Switzerland’s Lea Sprunger led the way in the women’s semi-finals, winning in a European lead of 51.90.
Nelson Evora (triple jump world rank: 6) had the longest effort in triple jump qualification with 16.89m, while Christina Schwanitz (shot put world rank: 2) was best in the women’s shot put qualification, throwing 19.09m.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF