European Youth Champion

Andover AC’s Holly Mills has become the first Andover athlete and also British athlete to be crowned European Athletics Youth Long Jump Champion at the inaugural Championships held in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Team GB had sent a strong team to Tbilisi with many of the athletes ranked in the top 5 in Europe so to even make the team was a huge achievement for Holly. With several girls ranked above her in Europe Holly knew that competition was going to be strong so her first target was to make it through the qualifying round and into the final. With 25 athletes competing the girls were split into 2 qualifying groups with the top 12 progressing to the final.

Although the morning temperature was reaching 32* there was a blustery breeze that was making conditions challenging for the athletes but Holly opened with a jump of 6.07m to take the lead in her group and followed this with a jump of 6.12m. Although her final jump was a foul her previous jumps were good enough to win her group and progress to the final.

Speaking after the Qualifying Round, Holly, who won bronze at the recent British Championships said “I’m so happy – I wanted to jump further and get automatic qualifying (6.20m), but it was a case of getting used to the runway as its so fast.”

“My last jump was big, but a no jump, so I will have to save that for the final, from my original marker, I’ve already gone back six or seven pigeon steps, which is a lot, so I may have to go back a few more for the final,” Holly explained.

The final took place the following day and the temperature in the stadium was 38* come competition time. However, like the previous day there was a blustery breeze but this time much stronger with the athletes running into a headwind.

Unfazed by the strong headwinds ranging from -1.2m/s to -6.5m/s, Holly showed her composure producing an impressive series of jumps. After two rounds of jumps Holly was lying in second place just 2cm behind the leading jump of 6.08m. However, she produced what turned out to be the winning jump in round 3 with a leap of 6.19m to take the lead at the halfway stage of the competition. At this point the final was reduced to the top 8 athletes who would get 3 further jumps with the leader jumping last in each round.

In round 4 Holly produced another 6m+ jump with what would prove to be a crucial leap of 6.09m. There were no changes to the leaderboard in round 5 so the title would be decided with the last 8 jumps in round 6. There were some nervy moments for Holly when the favourite for the competition, Maja Bedrac of Slovenia matched Holly’s jump of 6.19m with her final jump, but consistency won on the day with Holly’s second best jump of 6.09m two centimetres better than her Slovenian counterpart.

Holly said: “I’m so happy, I can’t even explain it. I came in ranked third and I can’t believe I ended up coming away with the gold medal.

“On my practice jumps it wasn’t going right (with the headwind), but when I jumped the 6.19m, I felt safe and knew I could go for it. When the Slovenian (Bedrac) had her last jump, I was so nervous then but luckily on countback I got it by a few centimetres.

“I feel like a changed athlete, it’s my first time abroad and I feel like a proper athlete now. Having now won that medal I feel a really big part of the British team.”

“I would also like to say a massive thanks to BDZ Holdings Ltd and their MD Bob Rae for their continued support that enabled my parents and sister Abbie, plus my coach James Coney to travel to Tbilisi to support me.”

Coach James Coney said; “Despite challenging conditions Holly showed why she was one of the first names on the Great Britain team sheet demonstrating total professionalism throughout. From the first round it was evident that the competition wasn’t going to be won with a big jump as most of the girls were well below their seasons bests due to the extreme heat and strong head winds, Holly seemed unfazed by this and simply did what she has done all season, jump well round after round. Her consistency was what won on the day and it reminded me of current World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth Champion, Greg Rutherford. “

“Having coached Holly from primary school to a full GB international it was very emotional to see her stood on the podium with the national anthem playing in the background. This competition has shown that Holly has the ability to compete at the international stage and start to be considered as world class.”