25th July 2018
FUTURES IN FOCUS - HOLLY MILLS
A sparkling junior career has seen success come thick and fast for Holly Mills (coach: James Coney, club: Andover), with a plethora of national and international titles to her name already.
Her most notable achievements to date have come on the international circuit in 2016 and 2017, claiming European Youth and Commonwealth Youth Games long jump golds respectively, both times with a distance of 6.19m.
In Georgia, where she won European U18 gold, headwinds got up to -6.0m/s, but Mills took gold with a best of 6.19m (-2.3m/s). At the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, The Bahamas, the competition was interrupted as a thunderstorm wreaked havoc on proceedings.
Mills’ 6.19m (0.4m/s) effort from the early rounds, a new Commonwealth Youth Games record, earned her another international title. She was also selected as flag bearer for the event and leading England in the opening ceremony made the experience even more special.
“That was such an honour because I didn’t expect to be selected for that, or that they were even going to have a flag bearer. When I heard it was me it was such a great opportunity and an amazing feeling to have been selected.
“It’s exciting because you’re at the front leading everyone round. The team is buzzing behind you and it was such a proud moment for me. The competition itself was an amazing experience and was just amazing to be at. Being there and hearing the national anthem played on the podium gives you a real taste of what athletics is like internationally.
“Compared to Georgia – my first major championships – the headwinds were so strong it made it my most stressful competition, mainly because it was my first major championships. I wasn’t expected to win but going into the last couple of rounds I was leading and 6.19m proved the winning mark.”
Mills has enjoyed a fruitful junior career which has seen her named on the British Athletics Futures programme, which identifies athletes that have the potential to win medals at major international championships in their athletics career.
Having the support of British Athletics has helped to open doors to opportunities and support that would otherwise not be available and it helps her and her coach James Coney to tailor training sessions to get the most out of her.
“It’s really exciting. To be told that you’re an athlete that has the potential to be really good in the future shows that British Athletics have faith in me and that I could be Olympic potential is great.
“Obviously that’s where I want to be and for them to recognise that I’m heading in the right direction and they believe that I can get there means so much. To have their support is amazing.
“The access to physiotherapy & nutrition support is beneficial. One thing that myself and my coach find particularly useful is when we collect testing data on the days we have at Loughborough.
“Your speed and power all get tested and it helps us to plan training sessions. Without them we wouldn’t have access or the ability to do that. Having that ability plays a major part in my training.”
Mills’ potential in athletics was first recognised at a school sports day where it was commented on that she possessed plenty of raw speed. Mills’ father took her to their local club to see if she could follow up on their comments.
She thrived early on in a multi-event format of competition, which saw her take up one throwing discipline, one sprint, one long-distance event and a jump, taking a particular shine to the sprints and the jumps, which have gone hand-in-hand ever since. She’s been hooked from that moment on.
“I was eight-years-old and my dad took me up to Andover Athletics Club to see if I could actually run following those comments and it turns out I was quite good so I carried on doing it.
“At that age, you had to do four disciplines altogether and scored points for each. It was always the sprint or the jump where I’d do well. I couldn’t throw and was never a long-distance runner, the others were the ones where I’d shine.
“I started with the jumps and that got me into sprints, which led to hurdles, which I did side-by-side with long jump, but long jump was always the one where I was a little bit better.”
Mills earned another British vest as she competed at the World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland but just missed out on a spot in the final, recording a best jump of 5.92 (1.7m/s) after two big no jumps in the first round, finishing nine centimetres outside qualifying as one of the best 12 jumpers.
Mills’ jumps were also lower that what she was expecting, in part due to the fact that she started the season with combined events, something she is looking to do when she heads to University, but was still selected to represent Great Britain & Northern Ireland in Madrid, where she finished third.
Wearing the British vest and being able to represent her country is something that still fills her with great pride and that she hopes to continue doing throughout her career.
“It’s so cool to wear it because you feel like a massive part of something and as though you’ve actually achieved something big. When you put that on, you’re no longer representing yourself, you’re representing the entire country and that’s such a massive thing.
“Sometimes I don’t think people realise how big it actually is to have a British vest because when you put it on and turn up to your event with it on, it’s a feeling that you can’t describe.
“It meant so much to be selected because it’s been a difficult year. I did combined events at the start of the year and that set my long jump back, meaning I’ve struggled to jump the distances that I’ve wanted to.
“However, I really enjoyed the multi-event format and it led to a gold medal at the Under 20 nationals, breaking the championship record in the process, allowing me to earn a GB vest and my first international multi events bronze medal in Madrid.
“It had been a struggle to get to Finland and it’s been very stressful but I’m so grateful and excited to have had the opportunity in the first place.”