Why Keely Hodgkinson will become Britain's golden girl, by her first coach
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Leigh Harriers stalwart Margaret Galvin, alongside her late husband Joe, has decades of experience of working at the famed athletics club, nurturing generations of young talent that have gone on to compete to the very highest level.
But her initial sighting of a nine-year-old Hodgkinson just over a decade ago left a distinct impression that made Galvin convinced that she and her husband had a future star on their hands.
She said: “She started in a school’s primary cross country race, that’s where I spotted her.
“Then she joined Leigh Harriers and the rest is well-documented!
“She was just quicker than everybody else. She was just such a good, all-round athlete - you could see that from the way she ran.
"She was just so, so good. She was a very chatty, easy-going young lady, a very good trainer but also so competitive, none better really.
“When I first saw her I was compelled, I thought ‘I must do something, I must get this girl to join us - I can see that she’s going to be great.’
“She also had an interest in swimming; she was, and still is, a good swimmer. She would do sessions with her swimming club, and then come here and do some sessions with us.
“We won in the end, she decided to take up the running and fall back a little bit in the swimming.”
The past three seasons have seen Hodgkinson’s potential come to the forefront, and she is now one of the most recognisable and popular athletes in British sport after a run of continued medal-winning success.
At the weekend, Hodgkinson – who is now coached by Wigan duo Trevor Painter and his wife Jenny Meadows - added another World Championship silver medal to her collection, which already included Olympic, World and Commonwealth silvers, while she is a three-time European champion across indoor and outdoor competitions - and a British record holder.
Whether or not she is able to make the final step at the Olympics next summer remains to be seen, but Galvin believes perhaps more than anyone that a golden future awaits for her former prodigy.
“She has always had the vision that she wanted to run in the Olympic Games - which she realised in Tokyo - and this has always been her dream, her destiny,” added Galvin, speaking from an event at the National Lottery-funded Leigh Harriers Athletics Club.
“I am sure that when it comes to Paris, hopefully she’ll turn that silver into gold.
“She’s got years yet, she’s only 21, and she’s got quite a few Olympics that she can potentially compete in. I don’t think there’s any stopping her really.
“Keely is the best competitor that I’ve ever seen.”
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