Olympic History: London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020
Highlights: 16th in Rio 2016
Club: Old Xaverians Athletic Club
Year Born: 1986
State Born: VIC
David McNeill started cross-country running at just 10-year-old, after realising his natural ability for the sport he decided to pursue it full-time.
He made his international debut in 2004, running the 3000m at the Commonwealth Youth (U18) Games. A couple of years after graduating from high school in Melbourne, he headed to study at Northern Arizona University where he excelled in his studies, twice named to ESPN magazine’s NCAA All-Academic First Team and in 2009 was named the Division I Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
He graduated in three-and-a-half years with an impressive 3.8 GPA in the challenging field of exercise science. David remained at Northern Arizona from 2012 to 2014 to complete a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology.
His athletics results at college, during his eligible years (2007 to 2010) were outstanding, winning five medals indoors, outdoors and in cross country including a 5000m indoor and outdoor title. During his time at Northern Arizona he had the opportunity to train with Kenyan great Bernard Lagat who remains the second fastest 1500m athlete in history.
During his college years he still regularly wore the green and gold at three world cross country championships (2007, 2008, 2011) and ran at the 2009 World Championships and 2010 Commonwealth Games. Out of college, he made his Olympic debut in London, but it would be his second appearance in Rio where he placed 16th in the 10,000m in a time of 27:51.71, that he regards as his best performance of his career to date.
“The Rio Olympic 10,000m final was probably the pinnacle of my career to date. Came as close to my potential on the biggest stage on the one day every four years that counts. I was proud of that performance, and so grateful that I had my family and my late-friend, Daniel Carmody in the stands supporting me that night.”
In 2018 at the Australian Championships/Commonwealth Games trials, McNeill was successful in one of the greatest races on Australian soil. In a highly competitive 5000m field in stifling heat, he placed second behind Morgan McDonald and ahead of Stewart McSweyn, all clocked 13:19s. They defeated Pat Tiernan, Jack Rayner and Rio Olympian Sam McEntee in a most memorable race. McNeill went on placed 12th at the Games.
After taking some time off after the Rio Olympics, which included rehabilitating an injury, David made a big return in 2021 placing third at Zatopek (held in January).
In May 2021 McNeill clocked 13:12.12 to secure the Olympic standard, his first personal best in the event for nine years - making the Australian stalwart one of the feel good stories of the Olympic team.
In his Tokyo heat he was very competitive, placing eighth (13:39.97) and less than half a second from an auto qualifier for the final.
"I gave it everything, you always wish it was more, but that's what it was today. I needed to be a bit higher up, but woulda, coulda, shoulda. I'm still proud," McNeill said.
"The people that are watching you, the ones that mean the most to you, don't care about the result. They care that you are there. It sounds like a cop-out, but I'm trying to replace my negative thoughts after the race with a little more perspective."
Off the track, David is a physiotherapy, with a particular interest in running related injuries and training load management.