Flags fly in town centre as athlete prepares for the Olympics

Flags are flying high as a community shows its support for an athlete on her way to the Olympics.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:55 am

Scores of Union Jack, Team GB and Olympic flags have been erected outside businesses in Atherton town centre in honour of 800m runner Keely Hodgkinson.

They are proudly blowing in the wind along Church Street and Market Street as the Olympic Games in Tokyo approach.

Independent Network councillor Stuart Gerrard, who represents Atherton, said: “We wanted to show our support. There won’t be any spectators in the Olympics, so at least she will know the people of Atherton are supporting her and cheering her on.

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“At first we had 40 flags and we have had to order more, which will be up later this week.”

The flags were bought by Coun Gerrard, along with ward colleagues Couns Jamie Hodgkinson and James Watson.

Atherton Carnival Committee and chairman Brian Seddon have stepped in to buy a further 30 flags so they can fill the whole street.

Posters wishing Keely good luck, which people can put in their windows, have been produced by Imagine Design and Print.

The flags are flying in Atherton

The whole community of Atherton is certainly coming together to show support for Keely.

Coun Gerrard said: “Everyone has been cheering on Keely and following her progress. We are all very proud of her.

“We wish all athletes who are participating from the borough good luck as well.”

Keely may be busy preparing for the Olympics, but she knows all about the flags flying in Atherton in her honour and sent a tweet to Coun Gerrard.

Keely Hodgkinson wins the 800m final in the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Poland in March. Picture: AP

She said: “Thankyou !!!!! This is so lovely”

It will be the first Olympic Games for the athlete, who is a former pupil of Fred Longworth High School and a member of Leigh Harriers.

The 19-year-old is fifth on the all-time list of British 800m female runners after clocking 1:57:51 at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm earlier this month - smashing her previous best of 1:58:89.

She also won gold at the British championships, beating favourite Laura Muir and securing her place in the Olympics.

Keely is coached by Wigan’s Trevor Painter and mentored by his wife Jenny Meadows, herself an Olympian and the seventh fastest British woman over 800m of all time.

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