Keely Hodgkinson makes huge statement as she blitzes the field at the Euros in Rome

Keely Hodgkinson showed why she's red-hot favourite for the 800m at the European ChampionshipsKeely Hodgkinson showed why she's red-hot favourite for the 800m at the European Championships
Keely Hodgkinson showed why she's red-hot favourite for the 800m at the European Championships
Keely Hodgkinson proved she will be the one to beat after cruising through to the final of the 800m at the European Championships in Rome.

The 22-year-old from Atherton - who is coached by Wigan duo Trevor Painter and his wife, Jenny Meadows - barely broke sweat as she won her first round in a time of 2:02.46.

And she sent out a huge statement to the rest by winning her semi-final in 1:58.07 – with the next SIX athletes running either personal bests or seasonal bests.

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Indeed, Hodgkinson’s time was the fastest ever run in the semi-finals at the Euros.

"The heats for me are always about conserving energy, but some people are also trying to run their best race," she said.

"So you don't want to get complacent, or caught out, or tripped up, and I'm just happy to get through with no problems."

Hodgkinson is clearly back to her best after an injury scare late last year.

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"I didn't run for nine whole weeks from November to January," she said.

"'I tore a ligament and tendon and a little bit of my hamstring around the knee area.

"For the first two weeks, I couldn't even do any cardio because I couldn't bend my knee. It was torture. It wasn't ideal.

"Getting towards January, I was getting a bit 'it's fine but it's not fine. I'm not running yet'. But I had to be patient. Knees are a tricky one. If you get it wrong you can be out for a long time.

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"But it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to put together back-to-back weeks of getting my endurance, getting stronger and getting my speed. I really feel like this year is hopefully the best I've ever been."

Hodgkinson is also determined to give the Euros her full focus despite the Olympics looking large later in the summer.

"When you're fit and healthy you might as well take the opportunities,' she added. "If I can defend my title that will be great as a stepping stone. Coming into the Europeans, I'll always respect the competition but I am four seconds clear of the next person.

"So how do I keep the motivation high? I want to attack every race. I'm determined to put on a really good performance and see what I can do out there. I haven't let you down so far, have I?"

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