Modest Mills basks in mega success
HE does not often speak about himself and one might call veteran coach Glen Mills something of an enigma despite having been one of the foremost athletics coaches in Jamaica for more than two decades.
Many would not know that he religiously goes to church at Swallowfield Chapel each Sunday, once he is in Jamaica. He even got a special "hail up" from the pulpit just a few weeks before the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
He is, of course, known as the man behind two-time triple Olympic Games gold medallist and world record-holder Usain Bolt and more recently, the mastermind behind the transformation of Yohan Blake into an Olympic 100m and 200m silver medallist, 100m world champion and the second fastest man on earth.
It is something for which Blake himself — who joined Mills at the Racers Track Club in 2008 — seems truly grateful. On his return to the island from a successful season in Europe, Blake was full of praise for his mentor.
"Coach Mills has been wonderful. Over the years he said to me, 'Yohan, you're going to be great.' He made me cry. 'The Beast' has a soft side to him," Blake told those gathered at a welcome reception at the Norman Manley International Airport.
Blake described Mills as more than a coach and more like a father.
Indeed, in a 2010 interview with the Jamaica Observer after Blake posted a personal best 19.78 seconds in the 200m, Mills promised better things to come. A year later Blake was a world champion.
"He still has a lot more to learn and a lot more to master to take him to the top echelon of sprinting in the world, but he is a tremendous talent. Once he gets going and gets it right, you will see outstanding performances from him," Mills said then.
Blake now has the second fastest 200m ever of 19.26 seconds.
Long before the likes of Blake and Bolt, former national 100m junior record-holder Raymond Stewart was the name most associated with Mills.
As a high school coach at his alma mater Camperdown back then, Mills conditioned Stewart to a place on country's team to the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
After that, his greatest success came as coach of the 2003 IAAF world champion Kim Collins of St Kitts & Nevis.
He also served as head coach of national teams to several World Championships and Olympic Games until his resignation three years ago.
Mills, the man honoured by Camperdown for his achievements in November last year, is, however, reluctant to talk about himself. He recalls the last time he did a radio interview.
"I leave the public and the world to be the judge. The last time I spoke about myself (on radio), it became a national debate," he shared.
Once relaxed, it is clear Mills is proud of his achievements. It took a lot of hard work and dedication and often his own resources.
"I feel great that we were able to have such outstanding results. (I hear the whole Jamaica is ecstatic)," he said. "I worked very hard for what we have achieved and I worked almost alone without the assistance of any great sponsorship from anywhere apart from Adidas — the equipment and stuff. It's all my work and my resources."
The self-effacing Mills was quick to point out that he could not have done it without the support of the University of the West Indies (UWI) where his club is based, or the institution's principal, Professor Gordon Shirley.
"...Without his input and support of the institution we would not have the benefit of a facility to train all year round because without that kind of thing you can't develop people and we're competing against the world and first world facilities," Mills stated.
"The help Professor Shirley has given us at UWI is immense and a major part of our success and I'm extremely grateful to him," he added.
The club has the benefit of training on the all-weather Usain Bolt Track as well as the older grassed field.
"That's where most of our training is done. We do a lot of work down there. We need both surfaces in order to be effective and they see us as part of the family and we're extremely grateful," he said.
Mills became the first in history to coach the gold, silver and bronze medal finishers in the Men's 200m at the recent London Olympics and he told the Observer that 1-2-3 finish was the highlight of the Olympics for him.
"It, too, was one of the high points of the Olympics for me. I think it is the first time a coach has ever done that with three athletes that he coached, so it is a lot of firsts that took place there that is motivating for the way forward," Mills said.