I can handle the pressure, insists red-hot Keely

Keely Hodgkinson insists she can handle the pressure and will use it to fire her to World Indoor Championships glory.

The 20-year-old from Leigh, who is coached by Wigan’s Trevor Painter and his wife Jenny Meadows, is overwhelming favourite for the 800m title in Belgrade this weekend.

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It comes after a stunning last year where she became the first British woman to break a world under-20 record for 36 years, running the 800m in one minute 59.03 seconds, winning 800m European Indoor gold and claiming a stunning Olympic silver in Tokyo.

Keely Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson knows she is under the spotlight – especially as one of the few successes of a injury-hit and disappointing Tokyo Games for Team GB’s athletics squad – and is ready to deal with it.

“It keeps me going. I look at it as pressure and expectation – although it is there it fuels me rather than pulls me down,” said the British champion, who races in the heats in Serbia on Saturday.

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“Everything that happened meant it was a really great year and it’s great I have an Olympic medal to my name but it’s a new year and it doesn’t mean I’m going to get a gold this year. I have to work for it.

“That’s the approach to have, 2021 is something I can look back on when I’ve retired.

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“Now I expect more of myself. I expect times to be quicker, more consistency, I want to target the bigger races – in the Grand Prix and Diamond Leagues.

“I want to be coming higher, there were a lot of fourth and fifths last year. I want to be winning them now. That’s how the mentality has changed, trying to come up with better results.”

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Hodgkinson has already accomplished one of her 2022 goals by breaking the British indoor record in Birmingham in February but has several other targets, having written them down at the start of the year.

One of those is becoming the first British woman to win the 800m world indoor title, which would go one better than coach Meadows’ silver in 2010.

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“I did write down ‘world champion’. So that is an expectation for me. Hopefully I can go back and tick it off when I get home,” she said, with the World Championships in Eugene also in July.

“But if not, then it is what it is. This year I’ve set some goals but obviously it just depends on how the body is and how I am.

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"But they’re pretty big – they are bigger than last year. So we’ve got some ticking to do.”

There are also high hopes for Wigan’s Emily Borthwick in the high jump.

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The 24-year-old has been in scintillating form in 2022, clearing a personal best of 1.95m in the high jump, and finishing second in the World Indoor Tour series.

"I’m off to Worlds!!" she tweeted. "Overwhelmed with emotions after this indoor season but I am so proud and happy to be on this team. #BelgradeBound”