fter a difficult opening two days on the track, British Athletics was in need of a bit of a boost and while Laura Muir’s smooth and expected qualification on Monday morning was hardly reason to get the bunting back out, given what had come before and the drama that would follow, it was at least reassuring to see her looking fit and fast.
With Dina Asher-Smith’s withdrawal, Zharnel Hughes’ false start and Elliot Giles and Daniel Rowden’s failures to make the men’s 800m final, Team GB have been burning through podium chances at an alarming rate inside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, but Muir kept her hopes of an elusive first global outdoor medal safely on track by finishing second in the morning’s opening 1500m heat.
The 28-year-old sat well off the pace before cruising round the outside to join the leaders with 800m to go and then dropping a 59 second last lap to cross the line on the shoulder of Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and progress comfortably to Wednesday’s semi-final.
“It didn’t feel that fast so that’s good,” Muir said of her rapid final 400m. “I just wanted to qualify for the next round as comfortably as possible. So that felt really good out there today and I am looking forward to the semi-final.”
Asked for her plan for that race, the Scot added: “To qualify, hopefully as comfortable as possible. You don’t want to have any disrespect to any of the girls out here, but I want to save as much as I can for the final.”
That seems a wise strategy if what we saw in the two subsequent heats is anything to go by, for despite a late decision to drop the 800m and focus solely on the longer event, Muir clearly faces an unenviable task to crack the podium.
The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan, attempting an unprecedented 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m treble at these Games, was understandably looking to take things easy until with just shy of 400m to go she was tripped and those plans went out the window. Somehow, despite the fall, she closed a 30m gap to the leaders not only to qualify, but to win.
Despite that level of ability, Hassan finds herself a slight underdog to Faith Kipyegon after coming out on the wrong side of their clash in Monaco last month, and the Kenyan stamped some early authority on the competition with by far the fastest winning time of the day, a 4:01.40.
That pace helped Britain’s Katie Snowden to a 4:02.77 PB and automatic qualification, but also dragged plenty in behind to quick times, which ultimately cost teammate Revee Walcott-Nolan a fastest-loser spot by one-hundredth of a second.
With world champion Asher-Smith missing, the heats of the women’s 200m got underway and the sole remaining British representative Beth Dobbin equalled her season’s best of 22.78 to finish second and qualify, but there were some mixed displays among the leading candidates for gold.
Ivorian Marie-Josie Ta Lou and reigning 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo qualified one and two from their heat, while Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce looked impressive but world leader Gabby Thomas and 100m gold medalist Elaine Thomspon-Herah hardly put their mark on things, neither winning their heat and now running the risk of a tough semi draw.
Worst of all was Shericka Jackson, who had completed a Jamaican sweep of the medals in the shorter sprint, but eased down too much here and was dipped out of a qualification spot.