Former St Albans schoolgirl lands 'greatest achievement' with Tokyo Olympics call

Lizzie Bird during the kitting out session for the Tokyo Olympics 2020

Former St Albans School pupil Lizzie Bird during the kitting out session for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. - Credit: DAVID DAVIES/PA

A former pupil at St Albans School is heading to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in what she describes as her "greatest achievement".

Lizzie Bird will line-up in the 3,000m steeplechase after finishing first in the British Athletics Championship and meeting the Olympic standard of nine minutes 30 seconds.

And she was more than happy to thank the staff at the school for their help to reaching the grandest stage of them all.

The 26-year-old said: "When I realised I had run the qualification standard for Tokyo, it was a combination of excitement and disbelief.

"Backing that up with the win and automatic qualification at the British Championships has left me full of confidence as I head towards the Olympics.

“The advice and coaching of staff members, and George Harrison in particular, as well as the support the school provided me through its athletics programme, have played a huge part in my success.”

Bird, who started her club running career with  Welwyn Garden City-based Herts Phoenix, will take to the track on August 1 with the first heat scheduled for 9.40am in Tokyo or 1.40am in the UK.

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And she will have high hopes of reaching the final on August 4 having ran a British record of 9:22:80 in the Monaco Diamond League event earlier this month.

She was almost joined in the Far East by another from the school.

Mark Pearce also won the British title in the steeplechase victory but despite running a personal best, it was outside the Olympic qualification time.

Pearce said: "I never thought I’d be able to say I’m the best in the country.

"Every night at the school, I would train in a fun and competitive environment, surrounded by older pupils that were competing at a national level, and this taught me how hard I had to work if I were to reach the top.”  

Harrison , the former athletics coach at the school, said: "We are all so proud of Lizzie and can’t wait to see her compete in Tokyo. It was clear when she and Mark were pupils that they had the physical and mental attributes and work ethic to compete at the highest level, and so they are proving."

Headmaster Jonathan Gillespie added: "[Lizzie and Mark] will undoubtedly inspire our current pupils. On behalf of the whole school we congratulate them both and wish Lizzie all the very best for the Olympics.”