ATHERTON’S Keely Hodgkinson is hoping to upgrade last year’s Olympic silver medal for a World Championship gold as she gears for another massive summer on the track.

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After a tumultuous 2021 - in which she finished second in the 800m final at the Tokyo Games, was crowned Diamond League Champion, became the youngest ever 800m European Indoor Champion and broke Dame Kelly Holmes’ British record that had stood since 1995 – the 20-year-old has her sights fixed firmly on stepping up again.

And in an interview with this month’s Runner’s World, the Leeds Beckett University criminology student reflects on the past but highlights the next steps she wants to take to move her career forward.

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In the full Keely Hodgkinson interview, which can be read in the August issue of Runner’s World on sale from today, she talks about how swimming helped her, explains how she didn’t get picked for the school cross country team after being too quick and, aged 10, how being inspired by Jess Ennis winning gold at the London Olympics made her swap swimming and go back to athletics track with Leigh Harriers.

And nine years after London 2012 Hodgkinson was enjoying her own podium finish in the delayed Tokyo Olympics and inspiring others.

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Hodgkinson recalls that final: “It feels so long ago now, Tokyo. I think that day I just woke up and thought, ‘Right, I’m in the final,’ because that was the big thing, getting to the final.

“Once I was in the final, I was just so relaxed. To me, it was just about going out and executing.

“I knew what shape I was in, I knew what I could do. It was just about not getting carried away, just focusing for those two minutes and, yeah, it all came together.”

Just as she was inspired by Golden girl Ennis in London 2012, Hodgkinson’s performances have had a similar effect on some of the younger generation.

“I do get some letters from younger girls, but I don’t really think of myself as that.

“It’s a really weird role reversal, but then it’s really nice to know that other people look up to you, because it’s not an easy sport.

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“You give a lot in this sport and keeping people in it is the hardest part, I think. It’s just great to know that people are watching, really, because I work very hard to do what I do and to know that people enjoy watching it is a good feeling,” she said.

2022 has not all been plain sailing and Hodgkinson had to pull out of the European Athletics Indoor Championships after tearing her quad for the second time in March, just before the World Indoor Championships.

Philosophically she reflected: “The lesson learned from injuries is that they teach you resilience and determination because, even though you’re injured, there are still a lot of things you can do to keep fit.

“My coach Trevor Painter is really good at making sure that when I get injured, I come back in the same shape or sometimes even stronger, because I’ve worked so hard on the bike and in rehab.”

Last weekend Hodgkinson competed in the 400m in the British Championship as part of her speed work.

“My aim for the next couple of years is just to make myself faster,” she said.

“I don’t really know how fast that’s going to be, but I feel that for me to double in the 400m and 800m, I’ve got to be running at least 49.5 for the 400m, otherwise there’s not really any point to it, it’s not going to get me anywhere.

“I’d definitely love to make a 4x400m relay team one day, though. That would be really cool.

“The 400m I have a lot of fun with, and it’s nice to mix things up, but I think if I was going to double up individually, it would probably be the 1500m. People tell me I should be a 1500m runner, which I find very insulting!”

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Having missed out on the World Indoor Games, Hodgkinson is now relishing a big summer with the World Athletics Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the European Athletics Championships.

She is up for that challenge of tackling the lot – with her eyes fixed firmly on the Worlds in Eugene, Oregon to begin with.

“Originally, I was going to do the World Indoors, the Worlds and The Commonwealths, and The Europeans were a question mark, but I think with having missed the World Indoors, I want to try to do all of the other three.

“I think that would be fun and quite a challenge, but my priorities are the Worlds and Commonwealths. I’d like an upgrade from the Olympic silver to a World gold.

“That’s not going to be easy to do at all, but we’ll try. And then, for the Commonwealths, we’ll just see what I’ve got left,” Hodgkinson said.

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Full interview can be read in the latest edition of Runner’s World – out on 30 June.

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Pictures: Philip Haynes/Runner's World