Fun factor has Jemma Reekie dreaming of world gold in Glasgow

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When Jemma Reekie made a sudden change to her coaching set-up, her primary goal was simply to get the fun back and rekindle her love for athletics.

Her last coaching partnership ended in sudden fashion when early last year she and training partner Laura Muir packed up from a camp in South Africa and left coach Andy Young.

An official split followed soon after and geographically a big shift for Reekie in relocating from Scotland to Brighton to work with husband-and-wife team Jon Bigg and Sally Gunnell. It is a move, she says, that has transformed her both as an athlete and as a person.

“Training’s been good, life’s been good,” she says. “I’m so happy and having fun with it. I’ve started loving the sport again and can’t wait to go to training each day.”

I’ve started loving the sport again and can’t wait to go to training each day.

With the enjoyment has come pace, setting the second quickest time this year over 800 metres at the trials for the World Indoors earlier this month.

The hope is it equates to a first ever global medal this week having finished in the top five at both the World Championships in Budapest last summer and the Tokyo Olympics the summer before. And she has aspirations for more.

“I definitely want to go out there and win it – it would be so nice with a home crowd,” she said. “I’ve never got a senior medal so it would be perfect for it to be in Glasgow. I wanted to win in Budapest and will never shy away from trying to win a race. I’ll genuinely only be really happy if I win it.”

The 25-year-old has been eclipsed more recently by younger athletes like fellow Brit Keely Hodgkinson and American Athing Mu, both missing these championships.

And yet she is buoyed by the likes of Muir and other Brits whose world medals took time to finally come.

“I’ve always had good role models like Laura Muir and Mo Farah,” she said. “Those that had to wait years to get their medals. You have to trust it will come and so many British athletes have had to wait.”

Jemma Reekie at the World Indoor Tour earlier this year (Getty Images)
Jemma Reekie at the World Indoor Tour earlier this year (Getty Images)

In the quest to make that change, she believes she is an entirely different athlete. As well as learning to love the track again, she says Bigg has improved virtually every facet of her running to the extent she is almost apologetic how much time he has had to spend on her.

“He’s put a lot of time into me and I needed that,” she said. “No matter how hard, he was happy to do it. He’s spent hours watching me run, watching how my foot hits the ground, looking at gym work, everything. I had no strength work, no speed work, nothing. Jon probably does too much.”

As a former Olympic and world champion – albeit over 400m hurdles rather than the 800m – Gunnell brings not just the been there done that quality but more.

“Sally has helped me on the mental side of the sport,” said Reekie. “And I think I needed a woman in there to help me with some of the stuff I was struggling with too.

“When you’re young and you’re watching athletes you think they’ve no issues and nothing’s going on. When someone tells you they struggled with this and that, it humanises is. I think I really needed to be ‘ok, it’s not just me dealing with this and that’.”

Gunnell herself has talked about how Reekie exceeded expectations following her switch from Young last season. The expectation is now a step up to a global medal a year on.