Holly Mills motivated to eclipse Katarina Johnson-Thompson

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Holly Mills at World Athletics Indoor Championships - REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel (REUTERS)
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Heptathlete Holly Mills says chasing world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson has fuelled her fire ahead of a home Commonwealth Games writes Alec McQuarrie.

The Andover star is emerging as a serious challenger to fellow countrywoman and defending world and Commonwealth champion Johnson-Thompson.

Mills is bypassing the World Championships in Oregon in favour of targeting success in Birmingham this August, to further improve her odds of stepping out of the national record holder’s shadow.

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured her place on the squad, Mills is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.

She will arrive in Birmingham as a medal favourite across seven events, and she admits it is a new pressure having got used to the role of hunter on the domestic circuit.

"To be going in as almost one of the favourites is a completely new experience to me,” she said.

“I feel over the past year especially, I’ve always been number two in the country, obviously behind KJT, and it's definitely made me very hungry.

“When you're always put down to be a number two it does make you very hungry to finally get on top.

"I am definitely going for a gold medal. To say that you're going for silver or bronze, I think I would still be slightly disappointed with that.

“I don't think going to the World Champs would put me in that position just because of the timeframe."

Mills narrowly missed out on selection for the Tokyo Olympics, in which Johnson-Thompson made her third Games’ appearance.

The pair’s relationship is one of healthy competition, with Mills acknowledging her England teammate’s undeniable ability provides serious motivation.

“You spend a reasonable amount of time together, you're in the physio rooms together, you're on the same buses together, in the same hotels together and everything.

“So I have spoken to her to a certain extent but then at the same time, we obviously are rivals. We both have the same goals, to win medals, score big and do as best as we can in other events.

“I think there's definitely rivalry there but unlike individual events, heptathlon definitely has that camaraderie kind of atmosphere.”

The multi-eventer is setting the bar high, after missing out on a medal by seven points at the World Indoor Championships back in March.

Birmingham 2022 offers English athletes their first home Games since London 2012 and Mills is hoping the support from the crowd could be a real difference maker.

“I think the real driving force between me choosing Commonwealth Games over Worlds is the fact that these opportunities come around so rarely.

“To be competing with all of my friends and family in the crowd and knowing that the majority of the crowd will be behind me and cheering me on through the competition as an English athlete.

“That's going to be a whole different experience because I'm used to crowds but never that kind of intensity.”

Mills is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

She got a flavour of competing in front of spectators at the prestigious Götzis Hypo Meeting in Austria, where she posted a personal best 6260 points to place ahead of Johnson-Thompson.

And despite setting PBs in both the javelin and 800m events, the former long jump specialist is convinced the best is yet to come.

“We're aiming for 6400 and above kind of points score, which I think will definitely put me in the mix for these championships, and that's well within my capabilities.

“In Götzis, I scored 6260 and that was with a very average performance across the board. We think by the time I've tuned up a little bit in the next six weeks we're definitely on for a big PB score.

“I got my first taste of the sound of a crowd. Running my 800m PB down the home straight, the sound was almost deafening from the stands.

“To imagine that times by however many to make 30,000 people cheering you on over the two days - I can't wait to experience something like that."

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