Monday, June 17, 2024

European Athletics Championships 2024: George Mills targets gold – BBC Sport

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Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, George Mills enjoyed the “special” atmosphere at the Diamond League Bislett Games in Oslo last month

If the pressure of finals against outstanding opponents might seem a stressful prospect to his supporters in his birthplace of Harrogate, British running star George Mills does not see it that way.

After a spectacular 2023 and more personal bests at the start of this year, there will be a sense of relief in Rome when the Paris Olympics 2024 hopeful goes for gold at the European Athletics Championships this weekend.

“I do so much running and there’s so much training,” the 25-year-old told BBC Look North.

“This is the fun stuff: the 10 months of ridiculously focused hard work are over and now you get to enjoy the fruits of that, go into the competition and test yourself against the best in Europe.

“You come into these championships to try to win medals. That’s what I’m aiming for and we’ll see what happens on the track on Saturday night.”

Born and brought up in Yorkshire, Mills moved to Brighton in 2017, training at the club where 1980 Olympic 800m champion Steve Ovett ran.

Mills’ patience and persistence during three injury-hit years were rewarded when he took the British indoor and outdoor 1,500m titles at 1,500 metres in 2020. He will compete at 5,000m in Rome, having comfortably surpassed the Olympic standard this year.

Last year, Mills also put himself only behind two other stars of the 1980 Games – Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe – in the all-time British records for the mile, setting the fastest time since 1985.

“I’ve always had high expectations of myself,” said Mills, calling his training – he is based in St Moritz in the summer and South Africa in winter – a “lonely lifestyle”.

“I was brought up with the mentality that if you give your all in something and really, really work hard – you can truly say to yourself, ‘I’ve given everything I have’ – then the sky’s the limit,” he said.

“That’s the way I live and approach the sport. I’m far from content with where we’re at now.

“There’s so much more. As I sit right now, I don’t think I’ve really achieved anything in my career so far. There’s a lot of work to be done.

“From what I hear from close friends of my parents and stuff like that, people are following. It’s really cool when people take an interest.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Mills initially shot to prominence by becoming British 1,500m champion in 2020

One way Mills eases any sense of isolation and earns more admirers is through his popular YouTube channel, The 5k Guys, alongside team-mate Tom Elmer.

Their videos go behind the scenes and show the grit and competitiveness which was partly instilled in Mills by his father, former England international footballer Danny Mills.

“It means a lot because we have a responsibility to really push the sport and try to publicise it,” said Mills, who sees the former Manchester City, Leeds United, Charlton Athletic and Norwich City full-back as a role model.

“We document our journey leading up to Paris with the hopes of qualifying. Giving those insights helps people to follow your journey and support you, because that’s probably what we’re missing in the sport right now.

“Discipline, focus and the sporting ground is normal to me because I saw it growing up. I think normal life is like fully committing yourself and throwing yourself into the sport.”

Twenty-two years ago, Mills senior was preparing for a 2002 Fifa World Cup campaign in which he would play every minute for the Three Lions.

Mills, whose younger brother, Stanley is a midfield prospect for Everton, could have an equally action-packed time in Paris, where he aims to qualify for the 5,000m and 1,500m competitions.

“The Olympics are every four years, so you want to spend as much time there racing as possible,” he reasoned.

“I’m far from a master in either [discipline]. I have a very good coach and training programme, and I believe we train in the best way possible to give myself the best chance across both.

“I feel like I’ve got the tools to compete with the best guys out there.”

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