Not so long ago, Keely Hodgkinson was more focused on going to university than to the Olympics. Now, after another performance of staggering poise and power, the 19-year-old will arrive in Tokyo as a genuine 800m medal contender.
It wasn’t only that she took the scalps of Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie in the race of these British championships. It was the way she did it, blasting past them with an electric 57-second last lap to win in 1:59:61. It wasn’t quite “three Spitfires coming out of the sun” – as Seb Coe, Tom McKean and Steve Cram were dubbed when taking all three 800m medals at the 1986 European Championships in Stuttgart – but it was surely the closest modern-day equivalent.
As a stunned Muir admitted afterwards: “For her age, what she is doing is phenomenal.” Before the race Muir and Reekie had discussed tactics, with Muir agreeing to kick hard for home with 300m remaining. But Hodgkinson didn’t panic. She steadily closed the gap before applying the afterburners to win ahead of Reekie, who ran 2:00:12, and Muir, who was a further 0.12 further back.
“I’d definitely like to emulate Kelly Holmes in 2004, but I was only two at the time so I don’t really remember it,” said Hodginson on the subject of what might happen in Tokyo. “One of my favourites is Michael Jordan, I watched the documentary on Netflix and I just thought he had the mentality that he wants it so he’s going to go and get it. I like that.”
“I probably didn’t think of Tokyo at the start of the year but it’s been in the back of my mind,” she added. “As I’ve ended up closer and closer I’ve been ‘I really want to go’. I enjoy being in the championship environment, it’s something I thrive off, even being 19. I’m excited to put myself up against the world’s best.”
Reekie, meanwhile, believes all three Britons have a chance of making the podium in Japan. “I’m going for a medal, so the others should be going for one too. We all deserve to be up there.” Muir, who will surely be selected for the 800m and 1500m when the British team is announced on Tuesday, added: “The strength in depth is amazing. You could argue this is the hardest 800m team in the world to make. It is very exciting.”
A few minutes later the men’s race was just as spectacular as just three hundredths separated the top three. Elliot Giles clung to win in 1:45:11, just 0.01 sec ahead of Oliver Dustin and 0.03 clear of Daniel Rowden. Giles’ achievement was particularly impressive given he tore his quad six weeks ago.
“I knew a few months ago, whoever wins or whoever comes top three has a very real chance of medalling at the Olympics, if not potentially be the winner,” he said. “We have guys running 1:43-1.44 now. The sky’s the limit. I don’t know if there is anyone better than us.”
Elsewhere in the final day of these championships, Jodie Williams added the 200m title to her 400m crown with a season’s best of 23:02 sec, while Adam Gemili won the men’s 200m in 20.63 and Jasmin Sawyers won the women’s long jump in 6.75m. However, the performances in Manchester were put into stark context by some startling times at the US and Jamaican Olympic trials.
In Oregon, Gabby Thomas ran the fastest 200m ever since Florence Griffiths-Joyner to qualify in 21.61. Then, a few hours later, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran a personal best of 21.79 sec to beat her compatriot Shericka Jackson by 0.03 sec.