Keely Hodgkinson says comparisons with British double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes are an “honour” after becoming European Indoor champion.
Four days after her 19th birthday, and on her international debut, the Wigan athlete won 800m gold for Great Britain in Torun, Poland on Sunday.
Hodgkinson, who broke the world U20 record in January, is the youngest British winner at a European Indoors since Marilin Neufville took 400m gold in 1970.
Last month, multiple world and European 800m medallist Jenny Meadows, who coaches Hodgkinson alongside her husband Trevor Painter, expressed belief her charge possesses the ability to beat Holmes’ British 800m record time of 1min 65.21 sec, held since 1995.
Asked whether she was daunted by the expectations, Hodgkinson told Sky Sports News: “I take it as a confidence booster that they have that belief in me.
“Obviously, Kelly Holmes was absolutely incredible. Ever since that record was done… whoever is going to break it is going to take some hard work!”
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Hodgkinson, who is in her first year studying Criminology at Leeds Beckett University, adds: “I just try to take [the comparisons] as an honour.
“I would like to run that quick one day and do what she has done. [Winning] Olympic golds is the majority of athletes’ aims.
“We will see what happens over the next couple of years and hopefully I can stay injury-free.”
Hodgkinson says “it would be silly not to try and aim” for this summer’s rearranged Olympics in Tokyo despite what she describes as the “absolutely insane” competition across British middle-distance running.
“There are people at all ages coming through so the first task is going to be getting to the British trials [to be held in Manchester] in June,” she adds.
Hodgkinson believes there is a “stigma” about athletes, particularly in middle-distance running, trying to take on too much too young but she says “there is no point in trying to hold back if you want to show your best now”.
Aged 10, and then a keen swimmer, she recalls how watching Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill win Heptathlon gold at the London Olympics in 2012 influenced her to pursue athletics rather.
Hodgkinson says Ennis-Hill and American six-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix were her biggest inspirations.
Speaking on International Women’s Day, she hopes her achievements so far prove anything is possible with hard work: “I would like to be an inspiration to younger people, especially with me being young and showing that age is no barrier.
“[That’s whether] you are older, like Allyson Felix, who is near the end of her career but still running so well or you are young and shouldn’t be intimidated by older girls and be ready to give it all you have got.”
Sky Sports partners with Women’s Sport Collective
Sky Sports has launched a new partnership with the Women’s Sport Collective that will see the broadcaster support the network’s ambition of providing a range of opportunities for women in sport.
The partnership and investment from Sky Sports will ensure the Women’s Sport Collective remains free to all members as an integral part of the sports industry.
The network aims to provide opportunities for women in sport, at any stage of their career, to connect, learn, share and support each other.
Since launching in September 2019, the network has already reached over 2,000 members and includes women working in all areas of sport from governing bodies, teams and agencies through to charities, media and brands.
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