“This one means a lot,” says Briton after winning her first major outdoor title with 800m triumph in Munich
After silver medals at the Olympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games, Keely Hodgkinson had had enough of finishing second in major 800m finals.
She set about changing all of that by securing a convincing victory – and the first big senior outdoor title of her career – at the European Championships on Saturday (Aug 20).
As the athletes were introduced to the crowd, a huge rainbow arced across the Olympic stadium as the sun set on a cool and rain-lashed evening in Munich. Just a couple of minutes later, however, it was Hodgkinson who provided a golden glow to proceedings and pointed toward the colourful sky in celebration as she crossed the line in first place thanks to her time of 1:59.04. Frenchwoman Rénelle Lamote took her third consecutive silver medal in this event with 1:59.49, while Polish champion Anna Wielgosz was third in 1:59.87.
After the semi-final stage, Hodgkinson had admitted to fatigue setting in due to the physical and mental demands of tackling three championships in such a short summer.
She opted to sit back in the opening stages and, as the field hit the bell after an opening lap of 58.60, it was Germany’s Christina Hering in front and being shadowed by Lamote, Jemma Reekie and Hodgkinson.
The latter two athletes then burst to the head of affairs halfway round the final bend and it began to look like it might become a two-way British fight for the title. While Hodgkinson only grew in strength, however, Reekie – who has struggled with the after-effects of glandular fever this year – began to slip back and ultimately finished fifth in 2:00.31, just ahead of team-mate Alex Bell’s 2:00.68. Despite the roars from the home crowd, Hering finished seventh in 2:00.82.
“I’m definitely really happy to have finished the season with this special gold medal,” said the 20-year-old Hodgkinson, who now has Olympic, world, Commonwealth and European outdoor honours, not to mention European indoor gold, to her name in what is still only her second season as a professional athlete.
“I felt like the race could have gone a few different ways. I thought I would sit back a little bit and see what everyone else would do. I got to 250m in a good position and I set it up well to attack the last 120m and I had enough to bring it home.
“This one means a lot. I’ve got a great support team around me who have helped me to mentally get through the season. There has been a lot of changes for myself as I’ve adapted to professional athlete life but I am living out my childhood dreams so I really cannot complain.
“Coming off the Olympic Games last summer, many people go through an Olympic low after such a high, but I never experienced that. For me it was about keeping turning up for training and applying myself in races. Overall I’m really happy with this season and I am doing my dream job.”
For Reekie, there was disappointment but also a little encouragement that, with some recovery time over the coming months, she will be a force to be reckoned with again.
“I ran it tactically okay but I didn’t have the energy on the home straight,” she admitted. “I knew it was always going to be risky doing the Europeans which is three days of races in a row and I have been finding it tough some days to just come out and do one race. To do three in a row I have to take the positives and that I am nearly there.”
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