Jemma Reekie became European champion less than a month after a bad bout of asthma hospitalised her for four days – and now she is setting her sights on more glory in 2018.
The 19-year-old has made a spectacular breakthrough onto the international scene. She won two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships in January before topping the podium again with a win in the 1500m at the European Under-20 Championships in July, an event she looked extremely unlikely to even qualify for after taking ill during her preparations.
As a result of her success, Jemma, who trains alongside European Indoor senior champion Laura Muir, has been named as a finalist for the Young Sports Personality of the Year award at the 2017 Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards on December 7.
And the Kilbarchan AAC runner’s remarkable recovery to win at the Europeans in Italy has given Jemma encouragement that she can aim even higher next year. Coach Andy Young has set her the ambitious aim of qualifying for the senior European Championships.
She said: “I went to altitude training in May and I ended up in hospital in June. Two weeks before European trials I was lying in a hospital bed, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it.
“I was in hospital for four days, it felt like forever. It makes it all the better when I know I didn’t have it easy, I never had any consistent training in the lead up to the event and I was still able to go out and perform.
“I was talking about next year with Andy (Young). The targets he’s setting for me are actually quite scary; I never thought I’d be aiming for things like that next year. Even when I spoke to Laura (Muir) about it she said ‘oh, okay then’.
“We think I could’ve run a bit faster last year, I just wasn’t in the right races and my asthma threw me off for so long. For about a month after I was in hospital I wasn’t allowed to run hard in training at all, I was just keeping fit.
“Andy thinks I can be competing with the seniors next year.
"One of next year's aims is to reach the European outdoors."
"It’ll be really hard to get the standard but it’ll be huge if I can do it and I’m going to give it everything.”
Despite a season which saw Jemma set personal best times at every distance from 800m to 3000m, she admitted she was stunned to learn of her Scottish Sport Awards nomination. Jemma is nominated alongside swimmer Scott McLay and canoeist Ieuan James at the 7 December event.
Following her landmark year, Jemma paid tribute to the coaches at Kilbarchan AAC, the club who also helped to nurture Rio 2016 Marathon runners Callum and Derek Hawkins.
Jemma credits the club with keeping her involved in athletics and giving her the platform to become one of the most promising young athletes in Scotland.
She explains: “It was a big surprise to be nominated; I haven’t really had the chance to think about any of the awards because the season has been so hectic. But it was a really nice surprise.
“I was saying to my mum the other day that it is crazy how much I’ve achieved this year.
“Kilbarchan were such a big help. I think that is why I’ve ended up sticking in at it. They just made it fun, if you went along and something was wrong they didn’t make you train. They were so chilled out and didn’t push us.
“The sessions were good and the coaches there were so committed.”
Find out more
The 2017 Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards will celebrate the inspirational clubs, schools and individuals in sport on 7 December at the Doubletree by Hilton in Glasgow. For more information please visit the awards website.
If you are interested in athletics and want to know more, visit the Scottish Athletics website.