Golden hope Keely Hodgkinson cruises through 800m heat at World Athletics Championships

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Keely Hodgkinson might not be a morning person but overcame two early starts to coast into the semi-finals of the 800metres at the World Athletics Championships on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old, arguably the British team’s best shot at a second gold medal, has been hit by two successive 6am wake-up calls.

The first was anti-doping officers knocking on her door yesterday morning for a sample, her initial reaction, “I thought of all the days but it’s part or the job”.

Today, it was her alarm to get her up to prepare for the opening heat on a day where event officials had put out an excessive heat warning.

A silver medallist at her last three major championships, she has earned a reputation for her fast front-running which has resulted in her being the quickest woman in the world this year.

But in the heat she was comfortable enough to trust her kick in the final 200metres to allow others to do the front running before she sailed past in the home straight to win with relative ease.

She was joined in the semi-finals by teammate Jemma Reekie, who similarly looked at ease in finishing runner-up in her heat, while the other British runner in the 800m, Issy Boffey, could only finish sixth in the seventh and final heat to miss out.

The 800m could prove one of the stand-out events of these championships with a fit again Athing Mu, who beat Hodgkinson to Olympic and World gold, and Mary Moraa, who pipped the Britain in front of her home crowd at the Commonwealth Games, both in action.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

After a relatively straightforward qualifying, Hodgkinson, holding a battery-powered fan in her hand to help her cool down, said: “The conditions are awful. Mixed in with the 6am does not bode well for me. But I’ve got it done, I’m glad it’s the only morning round.

“I like to be back at 12 and done but I also like my sleep. And anti-doping came for me yesterday at 6am at the door so I was not happy.

“It was good I think. I’ve not done an 800 since British trials so get out there, get a bit of confidence back and just qualify safely.”

For the first time at a major global championships, she had family watching from the stands, dad Dean and mum Rachel able to attend after missing Tokyo with Covid restrictions last year and Eugene last year with work commitments.

Hodgkinson readily admitted she had been inspired by Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s shock gold on Sunday in the heptathlon, and had been in the stands to watch it unfold.

She said: “I thought it was amazing. I almost cried… almost. In the 800 she ran 2:05 so I was really impressed with that. And I think it’s just her story of coming back. She just seems so much more relaxed. It was very inspiring to see.”

Reekie, meanwhile, overcame what has been a tough start to the year after splitting with coach Andy Young following a fall-out in a South Africa training camp.

Wearing bright pink shoes, she said she was relishing the fashion accessory with the Barbie film currently all the rage.

Of her heat, Reekie, who has missed out on the medals at major championships to date, said: “It’s so nice compared to last year. Last year, I wasn’t ready. This year, I’m more than ready. I’m better than I’ve ever been. I want to be in that final, I want to run against the best in the world.”

Zharnel Hughes, fresh from his bronze medal in the 100m, ran under 20seconds in his heat of the 200m but eased up well before the line to suggest he is again in medal contention over the longer distance.

It proved a strong morning for the British sprinters with the trio of Dina Asher-Smith, Darryl Neita and Bianca Williams also qualifying for the semi-finals.