2nd May 2018
FUTURES IN FOCUS: GEORGE MILLS
For George Mills (coach: Jon Bigg), 2016 was a defining year in his development. The Yorkshireman made his big breakthrough on the European age group stage as he led from the front to claim gold in the men’s 800m at the European Youth Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia, in a then new personal best of 1:48.82 minutes.
It was one of Mills’ first major competitions outside of the UK, he also competed in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa in 2015, and to leave with a gold made it even more memorable for him.
“To win was amazing,” he said. “I went there believing that I could potentially win and to pull it off was really special for me. Even though it was an age group championship, winning was one of my aims and it topped a great season.
“I wasn’t too fussed about the PB, it was more that I ran the race how I wanted to. I wanted to run it hard and make sure that I could put myself in the best position to win and the PB just came with that.”
Last year took a very different turn for Mills as he was ruled out for the entire summer, after a brief winter of cross country, through injury.
Now, he is ready to get back on the track, with one of his main goals being the opportunity to compete at the World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland, in July.
“Last year was hard to take. I love racing, speak to anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that. Racing is the best part in sport and everybody gets excited by it, I love the competitive side of it,” he added.
“Since my last race, I’ve learnt so much about myself. I’ve changed coach, I’ve joined a new group and I’m feeling a lot better. I’ve got good processes in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I’d love to make the team for World Juniors, especially after missing the European Juniors last year. To be racing in the team environment and enjoying it again would be great. We’ll see what happens but hopefully I’ll get there.”
The new coach in question is Jon Bigg, who is responsible for the success of Commonwealth silver medallist Kyle Langford, world indoor bronze medallist Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, three-time British 1500m outdoor champion Charles Da’Vall Grice and defending 800m outdoor champion, Elliot Giles amongst others.
Working alongside Bigg and athletes of their calibre is helping to spur Mills on as he bids to join them on future podiums and he hopes he can learn from them in his bid to emulate them.
He added: “I really enjoy being around those guys because they’ve been there and have done it on the world stage.
“It’s about picking up little tips of what they like to do and what they think is best in training, as well as seeing how they act. In general, it’s a really good learning experience being able to train with them. They’ve helped me a great deal.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mills has made his name in sport. You could even argue that sport is in his genes.
His father is former England international footballer Danny Mills, who made over 300 league appearances for the likes of Leeds United, Charlton Athletic and Manchester City.
But Mills Jnr was idolising Sir Mo Farah (Gary Lough) instead of footballers and after falling in love with athletics while at school, he hasn’t looked back.
He admits his dad is still nervous watching him race, but still helps by offering him beneficial advice prior to the big races.
“I started getting into the cross country side of things and started to take it seriously in around year nine at school,” he said.
“That’s when I realised athletics was going to be my sport, so I set long-term goals in my head of what I wanted to achieve.
“I wanted an England vest, then a Great Britain vest, then go to the Olympics and finally to win there, I’ve always believed that I could.
“It would mean a lot to get a GB vest at an Olympics but I don’t want to be someone who’s just happy to go, I want to do something and not just be a part of it.
“It’s really helpful having my dad there for the experience. He’s helped me control my nerves and was great at the Europeans, keeping me relaxed and letting me focus on myself.
“In big races, the mental preparation he gives me is incredible. He gets more nervous watching me run than he did when he was playing because it’s out of his control and he wants me to do well.”
Mills has been on the British Athletics Futures programme since 2016 and is honoured to still be a part of it, especially after missing last season.
He is grateful for the support offered during his rehabilitation process and he wants to repay those who put him on the programme for showing such patience in him.
He said: “I’m really grateful to British Athletics to be on the programme and for backing me. Futures has been a great, especially being on it last year with injuries and access to physios and getting scans.
“It means a huge amount for them to back me, you need to impress them because they pick the teams and for them to support you is a huge pat on the back. It gives you that extra little bit of confidence.”