Reekie targets Olympic glory a year after being second fastest in her house

Jemma Reekie is aiming to go from second fastest in her house to Olympic glory in the space of year.

The Scottish star’s hope of challenging for a medal in Tokyo last summer was kiboshed by the arrival of coronavirus.

But spending lockdown living and training with European champion Laura Muir has convinced the 22-year old she has an even better chance next July.

“It’s been a crazy 12 months,” said Britain’s female athlete of the year. “Probably my best in terms of running, but everything else that’s happened in the world has been very difficult.”

Reekie has not exactly come from nowhere, having announced herself in 2019 by winning the 800m and 1500m at the European under-23 championships.

Reekie emerged from lockdown to win 800m at Rome Diamond League meet in September

But it was the way she started 2020 which grabbed the attention of her sport, breaking senior British indoor records for 800m, 1500m and the mile in a matter of days.

The postponement of the Olympics stung her initially, as much as it did world champion team mates Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

“But it quickly became clear the pandemic was more serious than me not being able to run a race,” she said. “That there were a lot worse things happening in the world.

Training partner Laura Muir during 1500m final at 2019 world championships in Doha

“And I then realised how much the postponement could benefit me if I really used the extra year to get better.”

Reekie, her dog Dolly and training partner Muir decided ‘bubbling’ together in Glasgow would be mutually beneficial as they build towards Tokyo and the middle-distance events that Britain has not medalled in since Kelly Holmes’ 800m-1500m double in Athens 16 years ago.

“We set up a gym area in Laura’s house, ran along canal paths nearby, took turns cooking and made a new normal of training,” she said.

Muir wins 1500m at 2019 London Diamond League meet

So successful was their arrangement that when the summer lockdown was lifted Reekie won six races in eight countries in seven weeks.

She was later named British Female Athlete of the Year by both Athletics Weekly and the British Athletics Writers Association .

“Last year I was just making it into the British Diamond League meet,” Reekie said. “A year on I am winning Diamond League races.

Ann Packer, no. 55, breaking the world record to win the gold medal in the 800 metres event at the Tokyo Olympics, 21st October 1964
Ann Packer (left) breaking world record to win 800m gold at 1964 Tokyo Olympics

“Laura and I push each other every day. You know you’ve got to do it for each other, so if I’m tired before the start of a session I’m like, ‘I’ve got to help Laura out as much as I can’. We both do that.

“If we continue to do so only good things can happen because we’re both at such a high level now.”

Reekie has not only learned to run fast, but to deal with the slings and arrows of life in a Covid world.

Kelly Holmes of Great Britain
Kelly Holmes wins 800m gold at 2004 Athens Olympics

“This year has toughened me up,” she admitted. “It has taught us all that things don’t always go to plan and you have to deal with and adapt to uncertainty.

“Does that make me more robust and resilient going forward? Yeah, definitely. “I’m excited for what’s ahead. I expect a lot of myself.”

Andy Young, who coaches both Reekie and Muir, agrees.

“Tokyo 2020 was probably 12 months too soon for Jemma, experience-wise,” he said.

“But by July 2021 she will be very well placed to contend for the medals.”

Ann Packer
Packer with her two Olympic medals in Tokyo


Ann Packer

(gold, 800m, 1964 Tokyo Olympics)

Packer triumphed in Tokyo in a world record time, having never previously run an international 800m race. Her focus was the 400m but having finished second in her favoured event the 22-year-old Reading PE teacher decided to give it a go. Just in the nick of time, too, as she planned to scratch from the final until her fiancé Robbie came up short in the men’s 400m.

Kelly Holmes holds the Union Jack as she celebrates after crossing the finish line
Holmes achieved the middle distance golden double in Athens

Kelly Holmes

(gold, 800m and 1500m, 2004 Athens Olympics)

Holmes became the first Briton for 84 years to achieve the Olympic middle-distance double when she broke the British record to win the 1500m in 3 minutes 57.90 seconds. The Kent star was rated a 100/1 longshot for the double coming to Greece but used her thrilling 800m triumph over training partner Maria Mutola as a springboard to emulate the achievement of Albert Hill, the only other Briton to double up, in Antwerp in 1920.


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