A former St Albans school pupil has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after finishing first in a steeplechase event at the British Athletics Championships.
Lizzie Bird, a former pupil of St Albans School, has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after meeting the Olympic standard of 9:30.00 for the 3,000m women’s steeplechase event and finishing first in the British Athletics Championships.
In describing the win and her Tokyo qualification, Lizzie called it her ‘greatest achievement’ in the sport: “When I realised I had run the qualification standard for Tokyo, it was a combination of excitement and disbelief, and backing that up with the win – and with it automatic qualification – at the British Championships has left me full of confidence as I head towards the Olympics later this month.
“The advice and coaching of staff members, and George Harrison MBE in particular, as well as the support the School provided me through its athletics programme, have played a huge part in my success.”
A second former student, Mark Pearce, who joined the school when he was 11, also secured a 3,000m steeplechase victory in the British Championships. Despite achieving a personal best, he narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification this time around.
Mark commented: “Winning in Manchester was absolutely the greatest achievement of my career so far – I never thought I’d be able to say I’m the best in the country.
“I wanted to go to St Albans School because it was academic but also championed co-curricular activities and athletics in particular. Every night, 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.”
George Harrison MBE, the former athletics coach at St Albans School, added: “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. Mark was unlucky not to qualify this time around but to be British Champion is no less of an achievement.”
Jonathan Gillespie, headmaster of St Albans School, commented: “Lizzie’s and Mark’s respective victories at the British Championships are superb achievements and testament to both their commitment and talent. They will undoubtedly inspire our current pupils. On behalf of the whole School community, we congratulate them both and wish Lizzie all the very best for the Tokyo Olympics.”
Lizzie also competed in the most recent Monaco Diamond League event on 9 July 2021, where she set a new British record of 9:22.80.