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Danny Mills roars on son George to 5,000m silver at European Athletics Championships

Britain's George Mills celebrates with his national flag after finishing second in the men's 5000m
George Mills celebrates his silver medal in the 5000m - Reuters/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Danny Mills never made it off the bench at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico during his football career but, from a seat in the crowd, he had the unforgettable experience of roaring his son to glory at the European Athletics Championships.

A silver in the 5000m, Great Britain’s first medal of the championships, was collected in style by George Mills, who even fleetingly threatened to derail the Norwegian great Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s 10th European title to add to his world and Olympic crowns.

With Ingebrigtsen hitting the front with just over a lap to go, Mills was the only athlete capable of following the pace before finally losing touch in the finishing straight.

Mills also wants to double up at the Olympic Games in August and, such is his discipline, his only idea of a celebration will be some kombucha, a healthy fermented drink, before returning to his altitude base in St Moritz where he regularly runs more than 200km a week.

“It’s what I expected of myself – so a step in the right direction – very reassuring of the work my coach and my team are doing,” said Mills. “But no celebrations. Nothing at all. It’s mid-season, the season finishes mid September.

“I’ll just enjoy going for a run tomorrow, doing my next session. I mean, I think if you’re celebrating mid-season, it’s a bit weird.”

Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway leads George Mills
Mills was the only athlete who could keep the pressure on Jakob Ingebrigtsen - Getty Images/Sam Barnes

Mills even claimed that his watching family, who he greeted in the stands, would be happier than him, even if there was heartfelt thanks for how his dad – the former England, Leeds and Manchester City right-back – had instilled the right mentality from a young age.

“He instilled discipline and hard work – the fundamentals of anything – and doing things you maybe don’t want to do for a goal later on,” said Mills. “I feel very fortunate I was exposed to that very early on.”

Danny was understandably beaming with pride and admitted that he found the experience much more nerve-racking than playing or even watching football, which he had done twice here from the bench in Leeds matches against Roma and Lazio.

“I have spent my whole life in sport and he is one of the most dedicated athletes I know,” said Danny. “There’s no stone unturned. There’s nothing he will not do to make sure that he’s ready. That’s only his third 5000m ever. But he believed in himself. And he backed himself. We’re a very proud family.

“I think I warmed up on the track here but never played. So we’ve now both run on this track, but he was a bit more successful than me. Rome’s a good place for the Mills family.”

And how were his emotions during the race? “Watching athletics is the worst thing on the planet,” said Danny. “George’s brother plays football, I played football and you get a chance. If you make a mistake, you can come back. You’ve got a team to bail you out. In athletics, there are no mistakes.

“You work 10 years for moments like this and then you get 13 minutes to perform. It’s like having a 13-minute penalty shoot-out. It’s just sudden death from the beginning – you’re waiting for somebody to miss because there are so many things that can go wrong. This will give him immense confidence.”

Mills’s silver was almost immediately followed by a bronze medal in the 100m from Great Britain’s Romell Glave behind an Italian one-two led by the reigning Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs. Glave, who ran an impressive 10.06sec, had come back from a fractured back during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and just faded behind the Italians in the final 30 metres.

Romell Glave celebrates with his national flag after taking bronze for Britain
Romell Glave celebrates taking bronze - Reuters/Manon Cruz

It was noticeable, however, that Jacobs’s winning time of 10.02sec was significantly slower than the British student sensation Louie Hinchliffe had run overnight in the United States to win the US collegiate title.

On his return to major international competition following a 22 month suspension for a doping violation, CJ Ujah had earlier been eliminated in the semi-finals in 10.24sec. Ujah, whose positive test was found to have been unintentionally caused by a contaminated amino acid bought on Amazon, said that he had still been welcomed back by his team-mates ahead of the 4x100m relay later this week.

Richard Kilty, who is also in the squad here, had previously said that he would never forgive Ujah. “We all make mistakes in life and obviously I made it at this level,” said Ujah. “I know I can walk with my head held high, knowing I didn’t try to cheat.

“I have learned a lot about myself, the resilience, and the mental health. It has taken a lot to get back to this point. My little son is spurring me on and that’s what is keeping me going.

“It has been hard. I cannot put it into words, but you know I was always hoping that I would be cleared and I would never purposely do what happened.”

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