Keely Hodgkinson almost made a splash in the swimming pool!
Track superstar Keely Hodgkinson has revealed how she was nearly lost to athletics - for an alternate career in swimming!
The 20-year-old from Leigh, who is coached by Wigan’s Trevor Painter and his wife Jenny Meadows, will be going for 800m gold in the Commonwealth Games at the end of July.
She'll be looking to build on the Olympic silver medal she won last August in Tokyo, with the prestigious World and European Championships still to come this year.
But a set of cross wires during her school days almost saw her hang up the trainers for a swimsuit and goggles!
“I used to be a swimmer," she said. "I swam a stupid amount of times a week and it gave me really good fitness for cross-country at my school.
"But it’s quite funny because in my first year of school cross-country, I didn’t get picked. I should have done because I actually lapped people, but they thought I was at the back!
"I remember going home to my mum and saying, ‘Mum, I swear that I won that. I should be on that team.’
"But my mum isn’t really the type to go in and start shouting at the teachers, so I didn’t get picked. The next year, I did get picked.”
And the fire in her belly for a career on the track was reignited after being a star-struck 10-year-old at the London Olympics of 2012.
“I'd quit athletics for a while because I wanted to be a swimmer," she said. "My dad and I would have these arguments because he would tell me I was a much better runner, and I would take that as him saying I was bad at swimming.
"We would have this back and forth and it was watching the London Olympics that made me go back to athletics that summer.
"Seeing Jess Ennis as the face of London and winning gold was just amazing. She was definitely a big inspiration for me growing up.”
A decade on, Hodgkinson is now a role model herself - something she is still coming to terms with.
“I do get some letters from younger girls, but I don’t really think of myself as that," she told the Runner’s World UK August issue. "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.
"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.”
On the 'new' understanding around female athletes coming back after pregnancies, Hodgkinson is also pleased with the way things are heading.
“I think there’s also a lot more information now on things like nutrition and recovery, which from what I’m seeing is adding years to people’s careers," she said.
"There’s also a really good new understanding around female athletes coming back from pregnancies.
"I’m only 20, so I’m not having kids any time soon, but I used to think that was something you had to do after your career.
"Now, I feel like if I want to have kids when I’m, say, 26, I can.
"Watching people like Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce come back and still be at the top of their game is amazing, and I think it’s going to create a whole new line of thinking that it’s pretty normal to do that; to have kids and come back and still have a career.”
In the meantime, though, there's three gold medals to be shooting for - after missing the recent World Indoors through injury.
“Originally, I was going to do the World Indoors, the Worlds and the Commonwealths, and the Europeans were a question mark," she added. "But I think with having missed the World Indoors, I want to try and 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.”
Read the full Keely Hodgkinson interview in the August 2022 issue of Runner’s World UK, on sale from 30th June 2022, also available as a digital edition.