If this summer is to be Eilish McColgan’s track swansong before moving up to the marathon, she is doing an excellent job of bowing out in style.
Taking her medal tally to three in just 12 days, McColgan added European 10,000 metres silver on Monday night to the Commonwealth Games gold and silver she won in Birmingham to continue her hot streak aged 31. With her marathon debut looming in London in October, she is in the shape of her life and only improving with age.
Coming so soon after her Commonwealth exertions, McColgan was dealt a difficult task in Munich. With no one willing to help her at the head of the field, she did everyone else’s hard work while leading for the first 18 of 25 laps.
Even after Turkey’s eventual gold medalist Yasemin Can then passed her, she gritted her teeth and dug into her dwindling energy reserves for a stunning sprint finish to fend off Israel’s reigning champion Lonah Salpeter for silver. Can’s winning time was 30 minutes 32.57 seconds, with McColgan clocking 30-41.05.
“I knew it was always going to be a tough ask to come here,” said McColgan. “My legs probably weren’t as fresh as I’d like. When the pace upped I just didn’t quite have that zip, but it was probably to be expected. I’m not a superhuman.
“As much as I would love to have won a title tonight, I have to be proud of my efforts.
“Coming into this, all I did today was sleep. My roommate just thought I was dead. I didn’t see her all day. Even the housekeeper came in and I didn't even hear him. I was totally knocked out. I do feel I’ve got a lot of sleep to catch up on.”
That McColgan is attempting another 5,000m and 10,000m double in Munich is commendable given her endeavours over the course of an exhausting, but career-defining, year.
Having broken British records on the road over 5km, 10km and the half-marathon during the winter and spring, she continued her fine run of form on the track when she narrowly missed adding Paula Radcliffe’s 10,000m national record to the 5,000m she already holds. What she lacks in comparison to her famous mother Liz’s global medal haul, she has already surpassed in times.
Battling back from Covid, laryngitis and a hamstring injury, she was disappointed with her efforts at last month’s World Championships, but her 10,000m triumph in Birmingham was one of the highlights of the Commonwealth Games.
In possession of the fastest personal best in Munich, McColgan quickly decimated the field by seizing control and forcing a single-file procession. By the halfway stage, only four women remained in the front pack, but none showed any inclination of sharing leading duties with McColgan.
Can’s big move put the gold out of sight with seven laps remaining, but McColgan still somehow found the energy to defeat Salpeter.
Despite admitting to mixed emotions at missing out on gold, she insisted she had no regrets about racing again so soon after the Commonwealth Games.
“I’m not the type of athlete that sits at home,” she said. “I’d rather be here and if I come first, brilliant. If I come last at least I know I’ve given it a go.
“I’m proud of my efforts tonight. It’s three medals and I want to end my track career with something tangible. It’s nice running records and breaking British records, but to actually have medals is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Earlier, Laviai Nielsen won her 400m heat to advance to Tuesday’s semi-finals, before opening up about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis a fortnight after her twin sister publicly revealed her struggles with the condition in an exclusive Telegraph interview.
Despite being diagnosed nine years ago, 400m hurdler Lina had kept her MS secret from all but her closest family and friends throughout her athletics career until deciding to speak about it in public after it struck on the eve of her World Championships heat.
“I’m so proud of her,” said Laviai. “She’s kept it private for years and I was like: ‘No one’s going to judge you’. She’s my biggest inspiration and I don’t mean that lightheartedly. She is a stronger kind of woman. She’s had nine years of difficulties.”
Lina also revealed Laviai received an early diagnosis before the Olympics last summer following an adverse reaction to the Covid vaccine. While Lina has suffered severe symptoms that flare on an irregular basis, Laviai described herself as “lucky” not to be hindered in her running career.
“I looked back at the nine years she [Lina] had and thought: ‘I’m going to be ok,’” said Laviai, of receiving the news. “I’ve got the most perfect example right in front of me. I dealt with it in my own way, but ever since, it’s been really positive and we’ve helped each other through it all.
“But honestly, I haven’t had any severe symptoms like she has. The only thing I had last year was I would be affected by heat. I would get pins and needles or a funny feeling down my left side. It hasn’t hindered my training or my performance, so I consider myself quite lucky.”