By Oli Dickson Jefford, Sportsbeat
Keely Hodgkinson has been backed by former world medallist and European champion Jo Pavey to capture the biggest title of her career to date at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
Hodgkinson has picked up medals at every major championships she has competed in since the start of 2021, with three gold medals coming at European level across indoor and outdoor championships.
The Atherton ace also has silver medals at Olympic Games and World Championships across the past two years, being beaten by American superstar Athing Mu in both Tokyo and Eugene.
But Hodgkinson is the fastest woman in the world this year, clocking a new British record of 1:55.77 at the Paris Diamond League, and with doubts surrounding Mu’s fitness former 10,000m bronze medallist Pavey believes the stage beckons for the 21-year-old ahead of Friday night’s semi-finals.
“She looked absolutely brilliant in the heat, and credit to her as well because she’d had that illness at the London Diamond League, and wasn’t able to compete,” said Pavey, speaking from an event at the National Lottery-funded Leigh Harriers Athletics Club on Friday morning.
“She showed that she was out firing on all cylinders again.
“She’s the fastest on paper after breaking her own British record again in Paris this year. She’s looking great, she’s still only 21 years old but she is so impressive. She’s got such a good running style and running form, and tactically she’s brilliant.
“It’s a tough race. You’ve obviously got Athing Mu, as well as Mary Moraa and another British athlete in the form of Jemma Reekie. She hasn’t got the main two players [Mu and Moraa] in her semi-final tonight, but we’re hoping she’ll be in that final, as she’s expected to be - and hopefully she’ll go one better.
“You’ve got to remember how many years she’s still got ahead of her as well, it’s just amazing.”
Leigh Harriers is just one of many clubs across the country to have benefitted from National Lottery funding, with players transforming athletics and para-athletics in the UK with more than £300million invested – at all levels – since National Lottery funding began.
Hodgkinson’s medal collection is already enviable, despite only turning 21 back in March.
Her major medals help make up more than 600 in athletics and para-athletics since National Lottery funding began, with those playing helping fund training facilities and camps, coaches, physiotherapists, nutritionists, and psychologists, enabling our athletes to be the best they can be.
She won the latest medal of her career by claiming the European Indoors crown in Istanbul shortly after her birthday, a triumph Pavey believes would have been more emotional than most after the recent passing of her former coach.
“It’s unusual to have medals of that calibre at her age. She was winning medals at 19, and it was obviously an emotional moment when she won gold at the European Indoors earlier this year,” added Pavey.
“Sadly her former coach, Joe Galvin, had passed away shortly before that medal. It was quite an emotional moment when she held up the flag with his name on after competing there. She has always remembered where she has come from and where she is going to now.
“It’s hard to imagine how amazing it is that she’s already got medals at an Olympic and World Championships and she’s only 21. It’s impressive to even be on the team at 21, let alone having that many medals behind you.
“It’s going to be fascinating watching her not only at this Championships, but going forward to the Olympics next year and beyond.”
Come Sunday’s final, all eyes will be on whether Hodgkinson can finally dethrone Mu, whose participation at these Championships was in doubt until her late arrival in Budapest.
The Brit nearly edged out Mu - the eighth fastest woman of all time - in the Worlds final a year ago, and Pavey believes she is capable of a significant win ahead of next summer’s Olympics.
She said: “Athing Mu is running well, but Keely was closer to her last year than she was at the Olympics. It’s also exciting that Keely does have the fastest time this year, which is going to give her a lot of confidence.
“You can see the confidence Keely had after competing in the first round. She hadn’t run an 800 for a while but she looked good and well in control.
“She’s got a great chance of coming away as world champion, but whatever happens she is doing amazingly.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen #ThanksToYou