London 2017 World Athletics Championships: Five to watch

Celebrations may still be ongoing after a phenomenal European Indoor Championships, but plenty of focus is already turning to what is set to be an absorbing World Athletics Championships London 2017 this summer.

And with ten British medals on the plane back from Belgrade – five of them gold – it’s little wonder there is plenty of excitement in the air.

But aside from just the stunning performances of double champion Laura Muir and Richard Kilty, who replicated his gold medal feat from 2015 across 60m, British Athletics performance director Neil Black was impressed with the strength in depth shown in Serbia.

"It's been great to see Laura Muir come away with the double gold she was aiming for but also wonderful to see Andy Pozzi, Richard Kilty and Asha Philip on top of the podium,” he said on the team that matched their Birmingham effort from 12 years ago.

"It was great to see Eilish McColgan battle for that bronze; there were world class performances from Lorraine Ugen, Robbie Grabarz and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke; and it was great to see different relay athletes coming through to challenge for gold, their time will surely come!

"This year is very much about London 2017, and this will have given great insights to athletes and coaches on where they are performance-wise."

Now, with all gazes firmly focused to the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, August 5, we pick out five stars who will certainly be worth keeping an eye on come the summer, with a bounty of hope for more names to be standing atop an athletics podium.

You wait ages for one European Indoor Championship medal, and two come along at once.

While that may not be the intended message behind the adage, you certainly won’t find Laura Muir complaining.

After years of disappointments, near-misses and fears her dream may not come to fruition, the long-distance runner pulled out all the stops to break her duck in the 1500m, also smashing a 32-year-old Championship record in the process.

Not content to just be done there after also breaking Dame Kelly Holmes’ British record, the 23-year-old added 3000m gold less than 24 hours later in Belgrade to complete her emphatic double.

Even then, Muir still possessed the energy to outrun a steward and complete a well-deserved victory lap, with focus now quickly turning to London, and a chance to beat the fifth-place World Championship finish she mustered last time out in Beijing two years ago.

Persistent foot injuries seem to have been a constant threat in Andrew Pozzi’s career, but not even a plethora of operations could stop him taking 60m hurdles gold in Serbia.

Already the man with the three quickest times in the world this year, he showed exactly why Colin Jackson called him a future star five years ago, clawing his way back in the final to win in 7.51 seconds.

But for Pozzi, the journey is far from over. Still only 24, the hurdler will be eyeing up London 2017 as the perfect opportunity to show what he is made of in the capital, all after injury in home stadia prevented him reaching his potential at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Yet with time still to go for him to get even better, this summer could be just the time that Pozzi delivers a knockout performance to wow the athletics world.

If you’re going to win 60m gold at the European Indoor Championships, then you may as well do it in a time to break all national records. Asha Philip would certainly agree.

Already an Olympic bronze medallist having taken 4x100m glory at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the sprinter once again showed her true credentials to take gold in 7.06s.

It continued what has been a consistent Indoor growth for the 26-year-old, fifth and fourth in previous competitions prior to heading to Serbia, finding form at the right time to bring out a top showing.

It’s that consistency and ability to shine that will undoubtedly be a Philip selling point come the summer, looking to show the progression from her last World Athletics Championships outings when reaching the 100m semi-final in Beijing.

It’s been 13 months since Theo Etienne dazzled the world by become the fourth-fastest British teenager over 60m, and the 20-year-old has certainly not looked back since.

That maiden performance spiralled into another first this time around in Belgrade, with the Championships a first at senior level with Great Britain.

More than just that though, Etienne made it all the way to the final and was well in contention for a medal, finishing fifth as Kilty blitzed his way to a second successive crown.

But seeing the accolades of his compatriot is something that is surely set to spur on the south Londoner, showing he most certainly has the mental attitude to handle the big occasion, an asset that could prove valuable in the coming months.

Only a photo finish prevented Shelayna Oskan-Clarke from taking 800m gold in Serbia, but that’s certainly not something to shrug at when running against a world champion.

The 27-year-old went toe-to-toe with Selina Buchel for the entirety of the race, coming agonisingly close to taking the indoor title – a marked improvement from 2015, where she had missed out on the final.

Couple that with already having the experience of a World Championships behind her, and it’s set to an exciting time for Oskan-Clarke as she bids to improve on her fifth-place in Beijing.

Her final effort in Belgrade was also an indoor best, more than six seconds better than the time  from which she had run in the heats, with plenty of encouragement to come from clocking in at 2:00.39.

Sportsbeat 2017