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Tokyo 2020: Keely Hodgkinson set for Olympic debut

Tokyo 2020: Keely Hodgkinson set for Olympic debut
© Reuters
Keely Hodgkinson won the British title in June to qualify for the Olympics.

Rising star Keely Hodgkinson admits she is yet to take in her whirlwind year as she prepares for the biggest races of her life.

The 19-year-old's feet have barely touched the ground ahead of her Olympic debut on Friday.

Hodgkinson's ascent has been so quick the runner was not included on the world class performance programme funding list in the countdown to the Games.

This year alone she became the first British woman to break a world under-20 record for 36 years after running one minute 59.03 seconds in an indoor 800m race in Vienna.

She won European indoor gold in March, just four days after her 19th birthday, and then left Jemma Reekie and Laura Muir trailing to win the British 800m title last month.

Hodgkinson now runs in the 800m heats on Friday and has gone from having faint hopes of reaching the Games to the spotlight of Tokyo in just seven months.

"I'll probably reflect on it properly at the end of the season, when it's all over and I can look back because I feel like it's just been bang, bang, bang," said the Leeds Beckett University student, who is studying for a criminology with psychology degree.

"Indoors came and then it went, now it's outdoors and Olympic trials came so quickly so I haven't had time to sit back and think about it. I'm just looking for the next thing. When the season's done, then I can look back.

SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships – Day Two – Emirates Arena
Hodgkinson won the British 800m indoor title in 2020 (Ian Rutherford/PA)

"It's a good way to keep you on your toes and always looking. I think as an athlete, you're always looking for the next challenge.

"Once you've ticked one box it's 'OK, what's the next thing I can do?' So it's definitely helped keep me focused, get here and hopefully do well.

"I don't think it (reaching the Olympics) was part of the original plan. We looked back a year ago and I think we thought, 'yeah, maybe I could get the time and maybe I could sneak in the team'.

"I didn't expect what's happened to happen this year, it's definitely been fun. I hope that I can keep it up, I'm looking forward to the Games and trying to be competitive like I was at the Europeans."

Hodgkinson is 11th in this year's world rankings and is coached by Jenny Meadows, who won bronze at the World Championships in 2009.

She was just 10 when London 2012 inspired a generation and wants to follow in the footsteps of some British greats.

She said: "I was on holiday in Marbella watching the Games. My first memory of the track is Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon, which is really special.

"That whole Super Saturday was really cool to watch. It's definitely inspiring days to look back on and hopefully we can get some more medals like we did then."

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Great Britain's Kelly Holmes celebrates after winning gold in the women's 800 metre final during the Olympic Games in Athens on August 24, 2004
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