A HEPTATHLETE from Hurstbourne Tarrant who is on the verge of being included in the Team GB squad for Olympic Games in Tokyo this year has thanked her community for supporting her sporting journey.

In an exclusive interview with the Advertiser, Holly Mills said it’s nice to see people from her neighbourhood and nearby areas being supportive towards her career.

“I feel like a lot of people are genuinely involved in it and it's very nice to have that kind of community behind you,” Holly told the Advertiser.

“When my mum posts something on Facebook, it’s great to go through the comments. About 90 per cent of the people commenting are from Andover. They really get behind my whole sporting journey. It's just really nice to see people commenting and posting, and being really supportive about my career.”

The 21-year-old is currently ranked 26th in the world in heptathlon. Her next event is in Tenerife in Spain in five weeks. If she continues her great form, and climbs up two more ranks, she is likely to get an invite to the Tokyo squad.

Andover Advertiser: Holly MillsHolly Mills

Having impressed the national selectors with her recent performances in Italy, Holly hopes she can improve her performances in Tenerife.

“My short term target is to replicate or going above the score that I produced last weekend in Italy, because that was a really solid score (6180) for me. But I look back on it and pretty much every event has room for improvement.

“Hopefully, 6200 score would be really nice. I've only done three heptathlons in my life. So this one in Tenerife will be my fourth. It’s about gaining more experience in the events, and just seeing how many points I can accumulate.”

Looking back at her childhood, Holly said it was a casual chat between a parent and her dad that changed her life around.

“I went to Hurstbourne Tarrant primary school. It was one of the sports days, one parent came up to my dad and said: ‘Oh, Holly looks really fast, you should take her up to the local Andover athletics track’.

“And so my dad did take this person's advice, and took me down to the Andover athletics track. I had never done athletics up until that point. I think I was about eight years old at that point. But I went there and I just absolutely loved it. I just started just by running around doing a little bit of jumps and throws like all the young people do.

“And from then on, I've just been a member of the club. I trained in the under 11s group, until I was too old for that. And then I went to my first proper coach James Coney who still coaches at the Andover athletics track.”

Holly trained with Mr Coney until she joined Brunel University in Uxbridge to do a sports science degree.

“I specialised in long jump up until I was 18 years old. I went to European Youths and Commonwealth Youths for long jump, and won the gold medal at both. And then I also went to World Juniors for the long jump in 2018. I didn't win a medal there. That was quite a down year for me. But I did long jump all those years and I literally just took sprints on the side.

“But when I turned 18 and went to university at Brunel, that's when I decided to take up heptathlon. After having a pretty poor year for me with the long jump, I thought it was time for a new challenge. I was like - ‘new uni, new coach, kind of just new event, and that's when I decided I've dabbled a little bit in hurdles and sprints in the past. And so I thought let's try heptathlon and see how it goes.”

Andover Advertiser: Holly Mills at a long jump eventHolly Mills at a long jump event

Her current coaches are Laura Turner (main coach), Garry Power (throw) and Frank Ettoh (jumps).

Holly considers hurdles as her strongest event, and javelin as the one with room for more improvement.

She has been working extra hard over the past years as she also wants to focus on studies as much as her sporting career.

“It's very difficult to be honest,” she said.

“The past three years have not been easy in the slightest – doing a university course alongside. Training for one event is hard enough, but when you have to put in the amount of hours that I have to train for seven, you're doing seven times the work.

“So it's been a lot of timetabling in small bits trying to get hours – an hour study break in between training. Usually I train from 9am to 2pm and then I'd come home in the afternoon and do three hours of work. Then I'd be back training from 6pm till 9pm. I train six out of seven days a week, so Sunday is my only day off. Over the past three years Sunday has been a very big workday for me. That's when I get most of my uni work done.”

Holly’s sister Abbie, 18, has also been part of Andover Athletics Club since she was 10. She is mostly into jump events, but is versatile like her sister. Their dad Steve is a coach at the club as well. Although he was into cricket and football mostly when he was young, he coaches athletics for the juniors group now. Holly’s mum Helen has also run the marathon.

“She doesn't do as many sports as the rest of us, but she's very active and she does a lot of running by herself as well,” Holly added.

Sadly, she has not been able to visit her family since Christmas. But she is hoping to return after the Tenerife event.

“It'll be nice to come back down to Andover and see my family, club members and go up to the track one evening, and see my old coach. The next five weeks are definitely very focused and then after that it will be nice to seeing people again in Andover.”