The strength in depth of British women’s middle-distance running is pushing all involved to new heights, says Jemma Reekie.
Reekie was joined in last year’s Tokyo 800m final by Keely Hodgkinson, who won silver, and Alexandra Bell.
It was the first time three Britons have made the event’s Olympic final.
“In 2020, I was racing 800m and winning all the time, but to have those British girls to step up and push us is so much better,” Reekie told BBC Sport.
“I am learning all the time and getting faster. Now in training you have to be working really hard because those girls are working hard.”
Reekie’s training partner Laura Muir is a key part of the British scene and, after considering doubling up over 800m and 1500m, her decision to focus on the longer distance was rewarded with a silver medal in Tokyo.
The two runners had moved in together during the first period of national lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Reekie could only enjoy her friend’s Olympic success at a distance.
Covid regulations meant that, after her fourth-place finish in the 800m final, Reekie had to fly back home before Muir’s final three days later.
“It was so weird not being there for it,” remembered Reekie.
“I was nervous the whole day running up to her final and then I was watching it sat right in front of the television at home, shouting her on.
“Laura phoned me quite quickly after and we went out for coffee afterwards to celebrate.
“It was amazing to watch her achieve what we know she is capable of for so long.”
Both Reekie and Muir’s 2022 campaigns are being overseen by coach Andy Young.
Reekie is in glorious ignorance of Young’s plan for her with a World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships this summer, saying “he just tells me where I need to be and what I need to do and I just follow”.
One date is definitely in the diary though. Reekie will step up to take on Muir over 1500m at the Birmingham Diamond League on 21 May.
“We are different in different ways, Laura is amazing at speed and endurance,” said Reekie, who has recovered from an early-season bout of glandular fever.
“I think I am a wee bit behind in endurance, but I’m quite good at speed. We both benefit each other so much in training – she pushes me in the long stuff, I push her in the short stuff and we work really hard together.
“I respect how good she is at the 1500m but I am sure we will put on a show.”
It will be the first time since the 2019 Anniversary Games in London that Muir and Reekie have met over the longer distance, with Muir winning that race and their two previous 1500m contests.
Reekie, meanwhile, has won five of their seven meetings over 800m.
The 24-year-old knows that, whether or not Muir opts to double up, the business end of the 800m at July’s World Championships could turn into a trans-Atlantic tear-up.
Olympic champion Athing Mu and bronze medallist Raevyn Rogers will be competing in front of a home crowd in Oregon, while eight of the 12 fastest times of 2021 have been run by either American or British athletes.
“I will be aiming to do better than in Tokyo, to be up there and competing with them,” Reekie added.
“They are all really good athletes. Athing is amazing so we are all working hard in Britain to be up in the medals over there.”