Laura Weightman says she has mixed emotions after finishing 11th in the women's Olympic 1500m final earlier this week.
The 25-year-old from Lesbury, near Alnwick, crossed the finishline in 4:14.95, inside Rio's Olympic Stadium, in Brazil, on Tuesday night (local time). The gold was won by Commonwealth champion Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, of Kenya, in 4:08.92, while the silver went to World champion and current 1500m record holder, Genzebe Dibaba, from Ethiopia. The USA’s Jennifer Simpson secured bronze and Weightman's Team GB colleague Laura Muir finished seventh.
It was Weightman's second taste of an Olympic final, after reaching the same stage at London 2012, where she also finished 11th. She made the final in Brazil after finishing fifth in her semi-final two days previously and qualified as a fastest loser in her heat before that.
While she is delighted to have added another Olympic final to her CV, she admits that she wanted to perform better on the grand stage.
On her Facebook page, Weightman, who is coached by track legend Steve Cram, said: "Mixed emotions finishing 11th at the Olympic Games. Disappointed I wasn't able to finish higher and be more competitive. I'll keep working hard!! It's been a great experience, I'm proud to have made my second Olympic Games final. Thank you to everyone for your messages of support it means a lot."
Her performances in Brazil have received praise, with Commonwealth and European championship medallist Jim Alder applauding her efforts. The Morpeth Harriers icon, who competed at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, said: “I am very proud of Laura’s achievements in Rio and felt that her semi-final was by far her best performance. The fact she made a second final is superb. She and her GB colleague Laura Muir should feel very proud and elated by their respective performances."
The 1966 Commonwealth Games marathon champion added: “Not getting medals can only be viewed as a disappointment individually, however the women’s 1500m final was arguably the best ever field assembled in terms of class, and to be very much part of that is immense.
"For Laura Weightman at 25, her superb athletics career has perhaps reached a crossroads, and she may need to take stock of that, and possibly make some firm decisions regarding which road she may wish to take in order to enable further future successes, as there is certainly still petrol in the tank."
Reaching the Olympic final made up for the disappointment of last year when Weightman – who won Commonwealth silver in 2014 – had to pull out of the World Championships in Beijing ahead of the semi-final, after suffering concussion in the heats.
Her achievement of finishing as the 11th best women’s 1500m runner in the world has been praised by Coun Val Tyler, who is Northumberland County Council’s Cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture. She said: “On behalf of all our residents, can I say how proud we are of what Laura has achieved.”
Messages of support have also poured in for Weightman on social media, following her Olympic exploits. Gazette readers have taken to our Facebook page to congratulate the 1500m star for her 11th-place finish in the final. Messages of good luck and congratulations were also left for Weightman after she came through her heat and semi-final.
After her efforts in the final, Freda Creighton posted: ‘Well done Laura. You did so well and you are an a inspiration to all young athletes x’, while Steph Mclaughlin wrote: ‘Well done Laura. You did us all proud. Thank you.’ Stuart Moody added: ‘Great effort to be at the Olympics. Let alone the final!’ Denise Harmieson said: ‘Well done Laura. What an achievement. You should be very proud of yourself.’ Hilda Blythe described it as a fantastic effort, while Hayley Dodd said it was an amazing achievement.
The messages of support have extended past our Facebook page. Touching comments have also been left on her own Facebook page, as well as the Northumberland Newsdesk. Kevin Holden posted: ‘A fantastic achievement from our local girl. Well done pet!’, while Elaine H Lowrey said: ‘Well done. Northumberland is proud of all the work you have done.’ Moira Atkinson said: ‘Well done :) Laura Weightman a fantastic achievement to run on the biggest stage in the world and to do your best on the day. All the family are so proud of you xxx’.
The final started at 2.30am GMT and some fans stayed up to cheer her on. Caroline Juggins wrote: ‘Well done Laura! I’m knackered today after staying up to watch. You did well!’