Phoebe Gill's Olympic Qualification Shouldn't Be A Shock To Anybody

Phoebe Gill’s Olympic qualification shouldn’t be a shock to anybody

The teenager became UK 800m champion in Manchester and therefore made the GB Olympic team

If you hadn’t heard of Phoebe Gill before the UK Athletics Championships (June 29-30), then you have now.

The 17-year-old produced a stunning performance to win the 800m final, clocking 1:58.66 and securing her spot at the Olympics.

Phoebe Gill

In doing so, Gill became the youngest British track and field Olympian since 16-year-old Lindsay MacDonald qualified for the 1980 Games in Moscow.

Gill, who set a European under-18 record of 1:57.86 at the Belfast Irish Milers Meet (May 11), has now run under two minutes in the 800m on three occasions this season.

The other mark was the 1:58.07 she recorded at the British Milers Club Grand Prix in Manchester (May 25), a BMC all-comers’ record.

The teenager has a history of front running, with her first laps in Belfast and Manchester being 56.56 and 54.95 respectively.

At the UK Championships, Gill never intended to run the final gun to tape but went through the bell in 59.78 and looked immense in the final 100m.

Phoebe Gill and Ciara Mageean (James Rhodes)

The fact she held off Jemma Reekie, who finished fourth in the Tokyo Olympics 800m final and claimed a world indoor silver medal over the distance back in March, is nothing short of remarkable.

Gill also beat Ciara Mageean – the newly crowned European 1500m champion – at the BMC Grand Prix two months ago, on the very same track she claimed the UK 800m title.

The 17-year-old hasn’t just produced times that have made others sit up and take notice but has also seen off major global medallists.

“I’ve not processed it [qualifying for Olympics],” Gill told AW, immediately after becoming UK 800m champion. “It’s crazy, I can’t believe I’m in this situation.

“I was just focusing on the European under-18 Championships or maybe the World under-20s but the fact I can go to the senior level event [Olympics] that everyone dreams of is crazy.

“It’s every young athlete’s dream to say that they are an Olympian. I got so emotional back at the track when it happened and I can’t even describe it. I know I keep saying it but it is a dream come true.”

Phoebe Gill's Olympic qualification shouldn't be a shock to anybody

Phoebe Gill (Getty)

Such an achievement at that age is the culmination of a lot of hard work from both Gill and her team over many years.

The Brit, who has been at St Albans AC since the age of 12, is coached by Deborah Steer and has an excellent support system of family and friends behind her.

Unsurprisingly, the teenager’s recent progression has been exceptional.

In four years, Gill has dropped her personal 800m best from 2:13.70 to 1:57.86.

Last July, she broke Jess Warner-Judd’s then 12-year-old British under-17 UK 1500m record of 4:14.21, with a time of 4:11.96. You won’t be surprised to hear that Gill has since improved on that mark, running a staggering 4:05.87 just three months ago.

Amazingly, the Brit also boasts a parkrun best of 17:37, highlighting her range from the middle distances to 5km.

“I’ve started to take the sport extremely seriously,” Gill said, after her victory in Manchester. “I’m now training like a pro-athlete [spent time in St. Moritz last season] and I know that sounds crazy because I’m 17 but I just love the sport so much.

“That includes nutrition and the mental side. I’ve also upped my training in the gym and focused on more running-specific techniques.”

Gill added that Steer was “such an amazing coach” and that her and Adrian Pattison – Cross Country & Middle Distance Coach at St Albans AC – had “really helped [Gill] flourish and grow in the sport”.

To those who have closely tracked Gill’s journey in the sport, Olympic qualification was always a possibility.

Even though Gill is still at sixth form and studying for her A-levels next year, her development in athletics has been impossible to ignore.

A product of the English Schools system, Gill has won multiple 800m titles over a variety of age groups and also stormed to a comprehensive victory over the distance at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games.

Then, at last December’s English Cross Country Relays in Mansfield, Gill anchored St Albans Striders to victory over 2.5km in wet and muddy conditions.

Plummeting personal bests, a plethora of junior titles and victories across a variety of events. It’s the perfect mix.

So when Gill beat Reekie to become UK 800m champion, obvious comparisons were made with Keely Hodgkinson, who also made the GB Olympic team as a teenager.

Phoebe Gill's Olympic qualification shouldn't be a shock to anybody

Keely Hodgkinson (Mark Shearman)

Like Gill, Hodgkinson raced at English Schools, took part in national cross-country events and then beat Reekie – Hodgkinson also finished ahead of Laura Muir – over 800m at the trials to qualify for the Games.

If Gill can follow in the footsteps of Hodgkinson then she will have an amazing career.

“I’ve loved watching her [Hodgkinson] and seen a lot of her races,” Gill told AW last year. She’s mentally an amazing athlete and performing how she does in races is incredible.

“I’m generally a gun to tape runner but I’ve looked at tactics of heats and finals at championships and you’ve got to be smart.”

A word of warning though. History teaches us that athletes who strive to reach major championships podiums will be blighted by injuries at some point. Managing those is as crucial, if not more, than anything else you do.

After all, Gill is still 17. She needs to be protected and managed correctly. Competing at the Olympics will be like nothing else she’s ever experienced. From the village itself to the grandeur of the occasion, the Games has a way of sucking you in. It’s not just about your physicality but strength of mind.

However, that is perhaps Gill’s biggest strength.

I first interviewed a then 16-year-old Gill after her victory at last year’s English Schools at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

My lasting memory from the entire event was Gill’s manner, both on and off the track. Not only did she waltz to a sublime win in the 800m but she spoke with such eloquence and authority in the interview, sounding twice her age.

If you saw Gill race for the first time at the Olympic trials for Paris then you might’ve been blown away and wondered ‘who is this 17-year-old?!’.

Well, now you know her. Gill qualifying for the Olympics is not a shock. This had been coming.

The exciting part is to now witness her journey. The Olympics is a different animal but the teenager has thrived in every challenge she’s faced so far. If Gill continues to run with the freedom that has got her to where she is, then anything is possible.

Ageless athletes – new documentary shows power of track and field in later life

Leave a comment