Laura Muir winning the 1000m at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Birmingham, UK

Muir and Farah break European records as IAAF World Indoor Tour climaxes in Birmingham

Laura Muir would be the first to agree that two out of three ain’t bad. The Briton achieved two of her three record targets at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham on Saturday (18), providing the highlight of the season-capping IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting with a European indoor 1000m record.

Muir hadn’t shied away from the pre-race talk of breaking the world indoor best of 2:30.94 set by Maria Mutola in 1999. She also had two other targets: Kelly Holmes’ British indoor best of 2:32.96 and the European indoor record of 2:32.16.

Jenny Meadows set the early pace, going through 400m in 59.65 and 600m in 1:29.71. Muir maintained the pace with a fourth lap of 30.85, passing 800m in an indoor PB of 2:00.56. Roared on by the crowd, a final lap of 31.37 brought her home in 2:31.93.

Her performance puts her at second on the world indoor all-time list and within one second of Mutola’s mark. It was Muir’s third record-breaking performance of 2017, having set a British indoor 5000m record of 14:49.12 and a European indoor 3000m record of 8:26.41 over the past six weeks.

“I am delighted,” said Muir. “I really wanted to get the win; that was really important. To beat Kelly’s (Holmes) record is amazing and to be so close to the world record is also very encouraging for me. It is every athlete’s dream to be running well every time you come out on the track and being injury free. Hopefully I can carry this sort of form into the summer.”

For Farah, an indoor farewell to remember

Just 15 minutes after Muir crossed the finish line, multiple world and Olympic champion Mo Farah headed out on to the track for the 5000m.

With a European record as his goal, Farah sat behind the early pacemakers, going through 1000m in 2:36.80 and 2000m in 5:15.90. The field broke up after the 3000m checkpoint, leaving a four-man group out in front with Farah running alongside Bahrain’s Albert Rop, France’s Morhad Amdouni and Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali.

The crowd roared as Farah took the lead with two laps to go, but the race was far from over as Rop fought back. Farah kicked again with 200 metres remaining and held on to his lead until the finish, crossing the line in a European indoor record of 13:09.16.

Rop set an Asian indoor record of 13:09.43 in second with Amdouni and El Bakkali setting national records of 13:10.60 and 13:11.18 in third and fourth respectively.

Farah confirmed afterwards that it was most likely his last ever indoor race.

“I can’t quite believe it is my last race but I have had a great indoor career,” he said. “It is something that must come to an end. It is weird thinking about it and saying goodbye because I have had great support from everyone and in particular this track where I have broken so many records. It has been amazing over the years.”

Thompson speeds to sub-seven 60m

It was just the third indoor competition of her life, but Elaine Thompson looked like a seasoned 60m performer when she sped to victory in a world-leading 6.98.

Having won her heat in a cautious but comfortable 7.22, the double Olympic champion looked much sharper in the final and strode clear of the rest of the field en route to her first sub-seven second performance. It took 0.01 off the stadium record set four years ago by Muriel Ahoure and moves her to second on the Jamaican all-time list behind Merlene Ottey and tied with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

“I enjoyed going through the heats, to get the rhythm and feel for the track and then come back for the final,” said Thompson, who finished third in the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016. “I wanted to go below my PB and I got that so I’m really happy.”

Thompson led a Jamaican 1-2-3 as compatriots Gayon Evans and Christania Williams finished second and third in 7.17 and 7.18 respectively. World indoor champion Barbara Pierre was fourth in 7.20 and in the process surrendered her lead in the World Indoor Tour standings to Evans.

World leads from Pozzi, Loxsom and Blankenship

Britain’s Andrew Pozzi set his fifth world-leading mark of the year in the 60m hurdles. The 24-year-old – whose last indoor defeat was at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships – finished two metres clear of the field to win in 7.43, shaving 0.01 from the PB he set in Karlsruhe and equalled in Sheffield. David King set a PB of 7.63 to finish 0.07 ahead of 2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt.

Having already set a world indoor 600m best and an indoor 1000m PB this year, Casimir Loxsom’s confidence was high heading into the 800m in Birmingham. The US middle-distance runner stuck close to pacemaker Bram Som through 200m in 24.08 and 400m in 50.28, both splits ahead of the scheduled pace.

After passing 600m in 1:17.50, world bronze medallist Amel Tuka appeared to be closing slightly on Loxsom, but the 25-year-old managed to hold on to his lead and crossed the line in a world-leading PB of 1:46.13.

Loxsom’s mark was one of two world-leading performances set by US middle-distance runners in Birmingham.

In the 1500m, Ben Blankenship took the lead with 300 metres to go. World Indoor Tour leader Bethwel Birgen momentarily edged back into the front but Blankenship kicked again with 150 metres to go, taking Australia’s Ryan Gregson with him. Blankenship won in a world-leading 3:36.42 as Gregson set an Australian record of 3:36.50 in second. Birgen was third, but it was enough to hold on to the World Indoor Tour win.

Obiri bounces back

Following her defeat in Karlsruhe, Hellen Obiri returned to winning ways in the 3000m. The Kenyan tracked the pacemaker through the first kilometre in 2:51.92 and then took up the running about 300 metres later. World indoor 1500m champion Sifan Hassan was tucked closely behind Obiri and the pair gradually distanced themselves from the rest of the pack during the second half of the race.

Having passed through 2000m in 5:42.27, Obiri continued to lead until Hassan charged to the front going into the final lap. Hassan’s lead only lasted about 100 metres, though, as Obiri kicked back and sprinted to the finish line in 8:29.41, breaking the national record she set in Karlsruhe and securing the World Indoor Tour win.

Hassan could find some consolation in a Dutch record of 8:30.76. Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum was third in 8:37.65 in a race where 12 of the 14 women set personal bests.

While Obiri’s World Indoor Tour win was comfortable, several other events went right to the wire.

Two-time world indoor champion Pavel Maslak was tied with Bralon Taplin in the 400m standings before Birmingham, but the Czech sprinter ultimately won comfortably in 45.89. Taplin had difficulty in working his way through the field and finished fourth in 46.38.

Another pre-Birmingham tie was settled in the long jump with Godfrey Mokoena out-jumping Fabrice Lapierre. The South African landed at 7.99m to secure the tour win while Pierre finished third with 7.76m, seven centimetres behind Tyrone Smith.

The women’s event, a non-scoring discipline in this year’s World Indoor Tour, was won by Britain’s world indoor bronze medallist Lorraine Ugen with a season’s best of 6.76m.

After a minor thigh strain forced World Indoor Tour leader Nichole Buchler to withdraw from the pole vault in the latter stages of the competition, it looked as though the Swiss pole vaulter would be forced to surrender a potential series win. But her 4.53m clearance was eventually good enough for second place and was beaten only by Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi’s 4.63m.

Manning, Hejnova and Baker impress in sprints

USA’s Christina Manning came within 0.01 of her recent PB to win the 60m hurdles in 7.83. Compatriot Sharika Nelvis was second in 7.94 with Australia’s 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson taking third in 7.96.

For about 50 seconds of the women’s 400m, it looked as though European junior champion Laviai Nielsen was set to take a shock victory. Having passed through 200m in 24.14, the Briton was caught just before the line by two-time world 400m hurdles champion Zuzana Hejnova with the Czech clocking 51.77, but 20-year-old Nielsen held on to finish second in an outright PB of 51.90.

World leader Ronnie Baker overcame a poor start in the men’s 60m final to take victory in 6.55. Just one hundredth separated the next four finishers with Kim Collins taking second in 6.58. Richard Kilty and Everton Clarke in third and fourth respectively were given the same time.

Jozwik, Thomas and Marton take tour titles

Joanna Jozwik already had an unassailable lead in the 800m standings in the World Indoor Tour, but the Pole didn’t rest on her laurels in Birmingham.

World silver medallist Melissa Bishop was closest to the pacemaker as the first two laps were covered in 58.29. The field bunched as the bell sounded with 1:30.86 on the clock and Jozwik moved up on to Bishop’s shoulder. She edged into the lead 50 metres later and was unchallenged as she strode to victory in 2:01.12. Sweden’s Lovisa Lindh came through for second in 2:01.69 and Britain’s Shelayna Oskan-Clarke was third in 2:01.71, PBs for both.

Erik Kynard continued his history of performing well in Birmingham as the 2012 Olympic silver medallist won the high jump with a season’s best of 2.31m. 2007 world champion Donald Thomas finished down in sixth with 2.20m, but the Bahamian had already done enough to win the World Indoor Tour.

Shot putters Anita Marton and Christina Schwanitz shared the lead in the World Indoor Tour standings ahead of this weekend, but with the world champion focusing on the German Indoor Championships instead, it left Hungary’s Olympic bronze medallist Marton to win comfortably with 18.97m.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF

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