Golden girl Keely’s emotional tribute to her first coach
KEELY HODGKINSON received the gift of a gold medal for her 21st birthday — then paid a poignant tribute to the coach from her formative years.
On a night when her team captain Jazmin Sawyers won a shock gold in the long jump, the British middle-distance star cruised to a more expected victory in the 800metres at the European Indoor Championships.
Yet Hodgkinson’s title defence meant more than usual as it came just five days after the death of her former Leigh Harriers coach, Joe Galvin, 80.
The Olympic and world silver medallist wore a green-and-white ribbon on her kit — a nod to Leigh’s colours — then celebrated with a Union flag which her mum had customised with the words ‘RIP Joe Galvin. Legend’. ‘This is for him,’ said a tearful Hodgkinson. ‘He was my first coach for about seven years. He had a lot of belief in 10-year-old me.
‘He passed away on Tuesday, so I’ve not really had time to process it and I was a bit emotional out there. I know he will be up there watching, along with his wife at home, who I know will be so proud of me as well.’ Hodgkinson turned 21 on Friday and was always likely to mark her coming of age with victory in Istanbul. She led from the start and finished in 1min 58.66sec, almost two seconds clear of Slovene Anita Horvat.
She will now set her sights on dethroning American rival Athing Mu at the World Championships in Budapest in August. But before that is a girls’ holiday to celebrate her birthday. ‘I’m going to Dubai with my friends. We’re already halfway there!’ Hodgkinson’s team captain Sawyers deserves a big celebration of her own after winning the long jump with a British indoor record leap of seven metres.
The 28-year-old could barely believe her world-leading jump in the penultimate round, immediately hugging Hodgkinson, who was on her lap of honour.
‘Can they make me team captain every time? Apparently I rise to the occasion,’ beamed Sawyers after winning her first international gold medal. ‘When seven metres flashed up, I lost my mind. It exceed my expectations. It won the last Olympics. For Keely to be there as well to give me a hug, it’s the stuff of dreams.’ The action at the Atakoy Arena ended on a sombre note, however, as Spanish hurdler Enrique Llopis was carried off the track after crashing into the final hurdle and smashing his head on the floor. The 22-year-old lay motionless while medics rushed to his aid and covered him from view with a tent. Llopis left the arena in a neck brace after of treatment but the Spanish Athletics Federation later tweeted a video of him talking in hospital.