Just 17, Phoebe Gill Storms Into The British Olympic Team

Just 17, Phoebe Gill storms into the British Olympic team

Youngster wins 800m title in Manchester as sprinters Dina Asher-Smith and Amber Anning clock championship records

With a performance belying her years, teenage middle-distance talent Phoebe Gill ran away from Jemma Reekie to win the UK 800m title in Manchester on Sunday (June 30).

At 17 years and two months old, she becomes youngest British athlete to make an Olympics since 400m runner Linsey MacDonald in 1980.

Phoebe Gill

When the realisation she is going to the Olympics kicked in, her head was spinning and full of emotion. On Monday she will be back down to earth, though, as she goes to do some work experience at her old primary school.

The young St Albans athlete didn’t intend to lead but found herself at the front as she went through the bell in 59.78 with Reekie on her shoulder.

Coming into the home straight Reekie was poised to strike but Gill eased away to win in 1:58.66 as Reekie also earned automatic selection for Paris in 1:59.28. In third, Erin Wallace clocked 2:00.88.

Afterwards a sporting Reekie embraced Gill. “Today was all about qualifying for the Olympics,” said the Scottish athlete.

Gill said: “It’s a whirlwind. I still feel like I’m in a dream. I can’t think of another way to describe it. It’s just unbelievable that this is happening.

“It’s crazy because these are all my idols that I’ve looked up to and watched their races for so long. To think that I’ve been racing with them. It’s just such an achievement for myself.”

Gill has a big decision to make, too. She has been picked for next month’s European Under-18 Championships in Slovakia – and the World Under-20 Championships in Peru in August are also an option – but will she now go to it given the proximity to the Olympics? “I’ll have to speak to my coach about it,” she said.

Gill’s talent has been clear for some time but in Belfast in early May she ran a European under-18 record of 1:57.86. That performance marked her out as a potential member of the Olympic team and on Sunday she surpassed expectations by winning the trial.

Keely Hodgkinson will complete the 800m team in Paris and here in Manchester she raced the 400m instead. A match-up with Gill would have been thrilling but that clash can wait for now.

Amber Anning (Getty)

Hodgkinson’s one-lap final didn’t go brilliantly, though. Drawn on the tight inside lane she finished seventh in 52.22 as victory went to Amber Anning in a championship record of 50.47.

Laviai Nielsen was runner-up in 50.92 with Yemi Mary John third in 51.23 followed by Nicole Yeargin, Jodie Williams and Victoria Ohuruogu.

Joining Laviai in the team for Paris is her sister Lina, who won the 400m hurdles in 54.81 from Jessie Knight, the latter clocking 55.36.

Just 17, Phoebe Gill storms into the British Olympic team

Lina Nielsen (Getty)

Dina Asher-Smith is used to training in sweltering temperatures lately in Texas but she made light of the cool damp weather in Manchester with an emphatic 200m win.

Asher-Smith, the 2019 world champion at the distance, ran a championship record of 22.18 (-0.7) as she took her first national 200m title since 2016.

Twenty-four hours after winning the 100m title, Daryll Neita was runner-up in 22.46 with Amy Hunt third in 22.78 – the latter running her fastest time for five years.

“Something new was definitely needed and I have an amazing coach and set-up over in the United States,” said Asher-Smith. “I am very happy with today’s performance.”

Just 17, Phoebe Gill storms into the British Olympic team

Dina Asher-Smith wins (Getty)

Earlier Katarina Johnson-Thompson finished second in her heat and was fifth quickest overall with a fine 23.20 (-0.1) but she did not run in the final.

The world heptathlon champion was also unable to do the high jump as it clashed with the 200m heats. This made Morgan Lake’s job easier as she won comfortably with 1.85m.

“I am super excited to have secured my ticket to Paris as that was my first aim today,” said Lake. “It can be difficult in the nationals as it can take a while to start jumping compared to on the circuit. But once I got going I felt okay.”

Lake said she wanted to get into the 1.90m-plus range but “the weather wasn’t very conducive”. She added: “Another title always means something. It never gets old and it is special in Olympic year.”

British record-holder Laura Muir was beaten to the national title by Katie Snowden last year. This time Georgia Bell took her scalp as she outkicked Muir to win in 4:10.69 as Muir held off a strong challenge from Revee Walcott-Nolan for the runner-up spot.

Just 17, Phoebe Gill storms into the British Olympic team

Georgia Bell (Getty)

A former teenage talent, Bell made a serious return to the sport last year and has gone from strength to strength in 2024, winning European silver behind Ciara Mageean earlier this month. She is based in London but makes regular trips to Manchester to train with Trevor Painter’s group. They actually do workouts on the Sportcity track and Bell admitted she had often visualised qualifying for the Olympics when doing track sessions at the venue in recent months.

Muir was gracious in defeat, saying: “I didn’t run the race very well. People were getting clipped and tripped a little bit, so I didn’t run it well but I confirmed my place at the Olympics, so I am pleased with the result. The other girls are running so competitively right now that you can’t make mistakes now.”

In the field, heptathlete Jade O’Dowda took the long jump with 6.55m (0.1), Amelia Campbell the shot put with 17.59m and Divine Oladipo won the discus with 54.78m from Zara Obamakinwa and Jade Lally.

“I came with no pressure as a multi-eventer but of course it is great to win as I am a competitor,” said O’Dowda. “I wait now to see if I am selected as I have the B standard for the heptathlon so I hope I may get to Paris.”

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