Keely Hodgkinson has ticked off European gold in the 800m indoor, now she wants world and Olympic glory
Before she traded the job in Istanbul for a sun lounger in Dubai, Keely Hodgkinson was asked about her outdoor season ambitions. Her answer was immediate and concise. “To win gold,” she said. No follow-up question was necessary.
Because Hodgkinson’s only and obvious ambition this summer is to win the world title in the 800 meters in Budapest. And judging by her wonderful winter, she has every chance to achieve that goal.
In five weeks she has broken the world record in the 600m indoor, lowered her own British record in the 800m and won the 800m at the European Indoors. The last of those performances came on Sunday night in Istanbul and it was a four-lap procession, taking nearly two seconds ahead of her closest rival to defend her title from two years ago.
“It’s still just as sweet because I like to win – but I think it’s what I expect from myself now,” she admitted in a reply telling you all about how she’s risen since that first major medal in 2021.
On Monday, Hodgkinson flew from Istanbul to Dubai for a girls holiday to celebrate her 21st birthday. She will return in time for the funeral of her former coach, Joe Galvin, who passed away last Tuesday and to whom she dedicated her European victory on Sunday night.
Keely Hodgkinson has set her sights on winning the world title in the 800 meters later this year
She has had huge success this season after breaking the world record in the 600 meters indoor
The 21-year-old runner also recently broke her own British record in the 800 metres
But then it’s back to business with a training camp in South Africa, with all roads leading to Budapest in August.
There she faces a new confrontation with 20-year-old American Athing Mu, who defeated her at both the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 and the World Championships in Eugene last year.
“It’s nice that people think it’s rivalry,” Hodgkinson said. “It’s good to have someone the same age as you doing the same things. Some may see it as crowded, but I like it.
“I really like the challenge and really like to thrive in those environments. She’s a really good athlete and hopefully we can have many more years of these fights.”
Hodgkinson has another fierce opponent in the 800m in Kenya’s Mary Moraa, who won behind her world bronze last year and beat her at the Commonwealth Games two weeks later.
But should the Leigh athlete remain injury-free at next summer’s Paris Olympics, she’s sure to be one of Britain’s leading contenders for track and field gold, having failed for the first time in 25 years. one to win in Tokyo.
“She has an excellent chance in Paris in 2024,” World Athletics president Seb Coe – a man who knows a thing or two about the 800 meters – said earlier this year. “I like that she doesn’t like to lose.
“It wouldn’t make sense to go to Keely and say ‘big silver medal’.” I see her in the tunnel after a race she loses and it’s no easy feat.”
Hodgkinson has formed an intense rivalry with American Ating Mu in recent competitions
Sometimes Hodgkinson doesn’t even like to win. When she stormed to victory at a World Tour event in France last month, she couldn’t help but smile as she crossed the line as she wanted a faster time. “Oh, I was stupid,” she admitted. “I’m not very good at hiding my emotions.”
However, that’s one of the many qualities that make Hodgkinson so likeable – and why she’s such a godsend to UK Athletics at a time of financial and organizational crisis.
Her gold on Sunday was one of only six medals Britain took home from Istanbul, their worst European Indoor Championship result since 2009. However, the mood returning from Turkey was upbeat, thanks to the success of Hodgkinson, Laura Muir who defended her 1500m title and Jazmin Sawyers claims her first major gold medal in the long jump.
Some may have scoffed when Sawyers claimed after winning the British indoor in Birmingham last month that she was aiming for a medal at the Paris Olympics. But her winning seven-meter jump in Istanbul was the exact distance that secured gold for Malaika Mihambo in Tokyo 2020.
Jazmin Sawyers has won her first major gold medal of her career in the long jump
The 28-year-old is aiming for a medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which has been ridiculed
“I feel like I proved my own confidence wasn’t misplaced,” said the 28-year-old. “For me to say to myself, ‘You can jump seven metres, you’re good enough to win these things’ was not just a utopia.”
On the track, it’s actually been a good winter for athletics in this country. Last weekend in California, Eilish McColgan broke Paula Radcliffe’s 21-year-old national record in the 10,000 meters. A week earlier, Dina Asher-Smith had looked great breaking her British record in the 60m in Birmingham.
With summer in mind, 2019 Heptathlon World Champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson will be back in action, as will last year’s 1500m word gold medalist Jake Wightman.
“We could be on the cusp of a new golden generation,” UKA chief executive Jack Buckner said last month. And while that still seems tough, we’re starting to see the reasons why Buckner believes there’s a bright future — with Hodgkinson chief among them.