Keely Hodgkinson insists she’s in ‘really good place now’ after initially struggling with her new-found fame as British 800m star prepares to defend her European indoor title in Istanbul
- Hodgkinson made her senior international debut at 2021 European Indoors
- She won gold in the 800 metres in Poland just four days after her 19th birthday
- Since then she has claimed silver at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games
Keely Hodgkinson was a relative unknown heading into the last European Indoor Championships. Two years on, she is returning to the event as a superstar of her sport.
The 2021 European Indoors in Poland was where the British middle-distance runner made her senior international debut. And it was also where she first came into the public consciousness, winning gold in the 800 metres just four days after her 19th birthday to become the youngest British champion in more than 50 years.
Since then, Hodgkinson has gone on to win silver medals at the Olympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games, as well as becoming the European outdoor champion. All that and she does not even turn 21 until Friday.
‘It feels like a lifetime ago,’ Hodgkinson reflects about her breakthrough moment in Torun ahead of the start of her title defence in Istanbul on Thursday night.
‘For me, the Europeans back then was a really nice opportunity. One of my favourite things to do is to prove people wrong and I wanted to show that it does not matter if you’re young, you can still go to a championships and win.
Keely Hodgkinson initially struggled with her new-found fame after stunning breakthrough
‘Winning allowed me to have some belief going into the outdoors season. That year was really nice. It was one thing after another.’
Hodgkinson’s stunning silver at the Tokyo Olympics, when she smashed Kelly Holmes’ British record, came just five months after her gold in Torun.
But the Leigh athlete initially struggled with her new-found fame.
‘On the back of that year, it was a bit difficult for me getting used to everything,’ she admits. ‘I was a teenager at the end of the day and it felt like my brain was catching up with everything.
‘Mentally I was 19 but physically I felt about 25. I guess it was just making sure I was still enjoying the sport. There were times where I maybe didn’t enjoy it as much last year. There was a lot going on.
‘But I’m in a really good place now. I’m looking forward to building on that and running as fast as possible. See what else we can do.’
It was a sign of the standards Hodgkinson now sets herself that she was disappointed to come away with just a silver at last year’s World Championships in Eugene, when she again finished behind her American rival Athing Mu.
Last month, much was made of her scowling across the finish line when she won a World Indoor Tour event in France in a world-leading time.
She won silver medals at the Olympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games
Even last week, when Hodgkinson lowered her own 800m British record at the World Indoor Tour Final in Birmingham, she was unhappy that she had not broken the world record.
‘I am not very good at hiding my emotions,’ adds the Manchester United fan, who has just moved into a flat that looks on to Old Trafford.
‘Eugene was a mix of two things. I was obviously disappointed as I was so close to becoming world champion, but at the same time I was still happy to be on a world podium.
‘It’s weighing up the pros and cons. Hopefully, this year I would like to do one better and keep building. I want to keep winning medals, showing up and proving it is not just a fluke.’