The Rise of KEELY SMALL - By Dr Philo Saunder | Australian Athlete


At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Keely Small became the fastest ever Australian junior over 800m, setting a new U20 (and U18) record of 2:00.81. Below, Keely’s coach Philo Saunders, takes a look over Keely’s background and training.

Keely burst into the headlines on Saturday 11 March 2017 after winning the Canberra Track Classic in a sizzling 2:01.46. Not only did she beat the best 800m runners in Australia, but she did so at the age of 15! For many, the result may have seemed to come from nowhere, but for those close to Keely and who have followed her career it was not an unexpected result by this exceptionally gifted athlete. Keely has dominated her age group right through little athletics and ran 2:10.01 at the age of just 13!

I knew of Keely’s performances and ability as her previous coach (Paul Torley) was a committee member with me at the Canberra Redback’s Athletics Club. Paul’s development group started joining in training sessions with my group as many of them were very good and looking for a senior group to train with to take the next step. Josh Torley did most of the sessions with my group but the younger runners, including Keely, mostly did Paul’s sessions. I remember Keely joining in with a few of our training sessions in 2014/15 when Melissa Duncan and Brittany McGowan were training in my group. Such was Keely’s ability in these training sessions that we asked her to pace the Open 1500m race at the 2015 Canberra Track Classic where Melissa and Brittany’s aim was to run around 4:10. Unfortunately, Keely suffered a broken foot when a friend dropped a weight on it in a sports store. After this, I followed Keely’s progression as she was often at the AIS doing sessions with Paul’s group.

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