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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sean Ingle in Budapest

Britain equals best medal haul at worlds with Hodgkinson taking 800m silver

Great Britain’s men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams pose after claiming bronze medals
Great Britain’s men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams pose after claiming bronze medals in Budapest. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Britain has equalled its greatest haul at a World Athletics Championships, with its tally of 10 medals in Budapest matching the performance in Stuttgart 30 years ago.

On a night when the National Athletics Centre felt like a giant Turkish bath, British athletes added three more medals – including a silver for Keely Hodgkinson in the 800m and two bronzes in the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay – to finish joint third overall in terms of medals won.

At the end of nine days of competition, the USA led the way with 29, and Jamaica are second on 12. Like Britain, Kenya also claimed 10.

For Hodgkinson, though, this was Groundhog Day with a twist. Once again Britain’s most precocious athlete arrived at a global 800m final believing it was her day. And once again she ran her guts out, only to fall just short. Incredibly it was the 21-year-old’s third silver medal in two world championships and an Olympics since 2021.

To rub it in even further, Hodgkinson finally beat her nemesis, the American Athing Mu who claimed gold at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 world championships in Eugene. However this time the Kenyan Mary Moraa proved too strong as she took gold in 1min 56.03sec.

“I was really looking forward to it,” Hodgkinson said. “I believed I was going to win. You’ve got to believe, that’s half the battle. It’s a different order this year. Who knows what it will be next year. One of these days I will get the top spot. Today it’s just not meant to be.”

Coming into the home straight, Hodgkinson was third. But as her two rivals slugged it out in lanes two and three, it looked like she might sneak through in lane one. But while she was able to claw her way past Mu, the line came too soon.

“Another podium, another medal, that’s definitely a positive,” said Hodgkinson, who finished in 1:56.34, with Mu third in 1:56.61. “I did think I was going to come through on the inside. The line just came quicker than I thought it would. But I gave it my all. I don’t really think I put a foot wrong.”

Keely Hodgkinson races against eventual 800m winner Mary Moraa and Athing Mu
Keely Hodgkinson races against eventual 800m winner Mary Moraa (left) and Athing Mu. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Britain’s other representative in the race, Jemma Reekie, was third with 200m to go but fell away to finish fifth. “I’m proud of the way that I ran out there,” Reekie said. “I was brave.”

There was more medal joy for Britain in the women’s 4x400m but there was drama behind the scenes as the team’s fastest runner Victoria Ohuruogu was left out amid reports she is still the subject of an ongoing investigation due to allegedly training with her boyfriend, Antonio Infantino, who is banned.

Britain’s team of Laviai Nielsen, Amber Anning, Ama Pipi and Nicole Yeargin still ran superbly and looked to be heading for a silver behind Jamaica with 250m remaining. But at that point Femke Bol started to motor and was able to sprint past Yeargin before taking the Jamaican Stacey-Ann Williams on the line.

It was Bol’s second gold medal of these championships after her 400m hurdles triumph, and she would have won a third if she had not tripped yards from the line in the mixed 4x400m relay.

Asked about the decision to omit Ohuruogu the UK Athletics technical director, Stephen Maguire, said: “Obviously there’s sensitivities around the whole thing, and I probably don’t want to go into a whole lot around it. I think we have a duty of care to the athlete, but also a duty of care to the four girls running. I’m quite comfortable where everything is at. But I don’t want to go into it.”

Britain’s 4x400m men’s team of Alex Haydock-Wilson, Charlie Dobson, Lewis Davey and Rio Mitcham also came third behind the USA and France thanks to a stunning 43.7sec split from Dobson. “I love these boys, this is what we do it for,” Mitcham said.

Morgan Lake also put in a superb performance in the high jump, clearing 1.97m to finish in fourth place behind the Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh, who took her country’s first gold medal of these championships with a clearance of 2.01m.

Elsewhere the Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen made amends for his 1500m defeat to Josh Kerr by retaining his 5,000m world title. But after pipping the Spanish athlete Mohamed Katir, who had burst clear with 200m to go, he admitted he had been unwell.

“I was very tired,” Ingebrigtsen said. “I tried to save my energy to win at the end because that was the only way tonight. I knew that if my tactics were better than my competitors I would have a chance to win. And that’s what happened.”

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Meanwhile the UK Athletics president, Jack Buckner, said the success of the British team at these championships showed the controversial decision to pick a smaller squad had worked. “Right now the belief is growing,” he said. “Sometimes it’s quite disheartening to see the numbers of athletes that go out in the first couple of days and we’ve had a lot less of that.”

Buckner also said he was continuing to pitch a “down and dirty” docuseries about British athletes to the BBC and Discovery. “Interestingly Jake Wightman said to me: can we do that a different way? If it’s got to be a bit more down and dirty, as opposed to high production values, he’d like to do it, so the athletes want to do it. The picture I’m trying to present here is a determined sport that’s going to fight its way back.”

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