Daily Mail


KEELY HODGKINSON has ticked off European indoor 800m gold, now she wants world and Olympic glory ... after a girls’ holiday in Dubai to celebrate her 21st!


BEFORE she swapped the track in Istanbul for a sun lounger in Dubai, Ke el y Hodgkinson was asked about her aims for the outdoor season. Her reply was instant and succinct. ‘ To win gold,’ she said. There was no need for a follow-up question.

Hodgkinson’s only ambition this summer is to win the 800 metres world title in Budapest. And judging by her wonderful winter, she has every chance of fulfilling that goal.

In the space of five weeks, she has broken the indoor 600m world record, lowered her own 800m British record and won the 800 matt he European Indoors. The last of those came on Sunday in Istanbul and it was a four-lap procession, finishing nearly two seconds clear of second and defending her title from two years ago.

‘It’s still just as sweet because I like to win, but it’s what I expect of myself now,’ she said in an answer which told you everything about how she has soared since that first major medal in 2021.

Yesterday, 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 died last Tuesday and to whom who she dedicated her victory on Sunday.

But then it will be back to business with a training camp in South Africa, with all roads leading to Budapest in August. There, she is set for another showdown with

20- year- old American Athing Mu, who beat her at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 and the World Championsh­ips in Eugene last year.

‘It’s nice people think i t’s a rivalry,’ said Hodgkinson. ‘It’s good to have someone the same age as you out there, doing the same things. Some may see it as pressure but I like it.

‘I really like the challenge and really like thriving in those environmen­ts. She’s a very good athlete and hopefully we can have many years of these battles.’

Hodgkinson has another fierce 800m opponent in Kenyan Mary Moraa, who won world bronze behind her last year and then beat her two weeks later at the Commonweal­th Games.

But should the Leigh athlete stay injury-free come the 2024 Paris Olympics, she will be one of Britain’s best hopes of a track and field gold after they failed to win any in Tokyo for the first time in 25 years.

‘ She’s got an outstandin­g chance in Paris,’ said World Athletics president Lord Coe earlier this year. ‘I like the fact she doesn’t like losing.

‘There would be no point me going up to Keely and saying: “Great silver medal”. I see her in the tunnel after a race she loses and it’s no picnic.’

Sometimes, Hodgkinson does not even like winning. When she stormed to victory at a World Tour event in France last month, she failed to raise a smile as she crossed the line because she wanted a faster time.

‘ Oh, I was p***** off,’ she admitted. ‘I am not very good at hiding my emotions.’

That, though, is one of the many traits which makes Hodgkinson so likeable, and why she is such a godsend to UK Athletics at a time of financial and organisati­onal crisis.

Her gold on Sunday was one of only six medals Britain took home from Istanbul, their worst return from a European Indoor Championsh­ips since 2009.

However, the mood was one of optimism, thanks to Hodgkinson’s success, Laura Muir defending her 1500m title and Jazmin Sawyers claiming her first major gold medal in the long jump.

Some scoffed when Sawyers revealed after winning the British Indoors in Birmingham last month that she was targeting a medal at the Paris Olympics. But her winning leap of seven metres in Istanbul was the exact distance which secured gold for Malaika Mihambo at Tokyo 2020.

‘I feel like I have proved that my self-belief wasn’t misguided,’ said the 28-year-old. ‘That me saying to myself, “You can jump seven metres, you are good enough to be winning these things”, wasn’t just a pipe dream.’

On the track, it has actually been a good winter for athletics in this country.

Over the weekend, Eilish McColgan broke Paula Radcliffe’s 21- year- old national 10,000m record in California. A week earlier, Dina Asher-Smith lowered her own British 60m record in Birmingham.

Turning to the summer, 2019 heptathlon world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson will return to action, as will last year’s 1500m world gold medallist Jake Wightman.

‘We could be on the threshold of another golden generation,’ UKA chief executive Jack Buckner said last month.

And while that still seems a stretch, we are starting to see the reasons that Buckner believes there is a bright future — with Hodgkinson chief among them.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Pointing the way: Hodgkinson wins gold in Istanbul
GETTY IMAGES Pointing the way: Hodgkinson wins gold in Istanbul
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom