Guru Gunnell hoping Jemma can make big strides in 2024

Friday 22nd December 2023

Jemma wins the London Diamond League race last summer (photo via London Diamond League)

Diamond day for Jemma in London

Sally Gunnell hopes Jemma Reekie’s 2024 will turn into a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ – Glasgow and Paris.

The 25-year-old Scot had a successful season over her preferred 800m distance after recovering full health from glandular fever the year before and then moving on from coach Andy Young in the spring.

Jon Bigg and his wife, Olympic champion Gunnell, are now coaching Jemma, who has bought into the change by joining the training group in Brighton.

Fifth place in the World Champs and wins in the London Diamond League and the 5th Avenue Mile hinted at exciting times ahead – with the World Indoors in Glasgow and the Olympics in Paris firmly on the Reekie radar.

‘We are very pleased to be working with Jemma,’ said Sally.

‘She has a lot of talent but also we can see lots of different ways how we believe we can make her a better runner. We are excited about what the future may hold.’

‘Looking back at 2023, I think she got more out of the season than we probably expected. There had been a lot of change for her to cope with earlier in the year.

‘She had moved to success and moved coach and group. The had left her coach after many years and I know how that can have an effect on an individual.

‘We were looking to get her out there racing and enjoying the sport again. It went much better than we expected.’

Bigg and Gunnell clearly worked on building up Jemma’s self-belief after a difficult 2022. Sally, who won the Olympic 400m hurdles title in Barcelona in 1992, has vast experience at a global level to pass on.

‘I’m very much trying to use my own experiences in the sport to help Jemma and to allow her to draw from that,’ added Sally.

‘You have experiences yourself and you look to pass that on, explain scenarios and so on. I’ve helped her in terms of her mind and the power of it – how important that can be for confidence. I feel that can have a big part to play in an athlete’s performance.

‘I’d like to think I’ve been there for her and we have chatted about what is normal and what to expect. How you feel before a race and how everyone goes through that. Hopefully it has helped that I’ve been there at the elite level.

‘Jemma was ill in 2022 and that left her lacking confidence in her performance, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. As the season started we began to see her confidence in herself build a little bit each time she raced.

‘So step-by-step she started to have a consistent season – having good training sessions, working on new areas, and bringing that out in races. That allowed us to tap into a little bit of what Jemma is capable of.’

Jemma and Ambassador Eilidh Doyle launched the volunteer campaign for Glasgow 2024 in September and the 800m runner made it clear she would love to race at the event.

‘The World indoors is definitely one of the targets for 2024,’ confirmed Sally.

‘It’s in Glasgow so you want to see here go out there in front of the Scottish crowd and do well.

‘Obviously the big target and highlight will hopefully be the Olympics in Paris.

‘It is nice to see her so hungry. This isn’t just about getting into finals now, Jemma is very much talking about wanting to get medals.

‘Women’s 800m is one of the toughest events at the moment but that pushes you on as an individual and us as a coaching and support team. You have to try and take the opportunities.’

Jemma in action at the World Champs (photo by Mark Shearman)



Tags: Features, Jemma Reekie, Sally Gunnell

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