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Keely Hodgkinson wins European Championship gold in 800m – despite falling ill and despite only deciding to compete 10 minutes before the start of the race

It was intended as the banker of the sports summer. Keely Hodgkinson’s European superiority is such that her chances of defending her 800m title were just 1-33.

Well, those who had bet the family silver on a Hodgkinson gold had to sweat as much last night as the poor athlete herself.

Ultimately, the 22-year-old took a dose and got the Italian job in Rome, from gun to tape. But what was expected to be a two-lap procession became a two-minute battle to the finish due to her illness.

Hodgkinson’s personal best during the European final in the 800 meters was more than three seconds faster than the rest of the field. But she finished just 0.14 seconds ahead of Gabriela Gajanova last night, with the Slovakian breathing down the Brit’s neck in the final few meters and almost completing one of the greatest shocks of all time.

When Hodgkinson crossed the line at the Stadio Olimpico, there was no celebration. She puffed out her cheeks in relief before mustering enough energy to hold a Union flag on the ground.

Keely Hodgkinson won European gold in the 800 meters on Wednesday, but had to work for it

Keely Hodgkinson won European gold in the 800 meters on Wednesday, but had to work for it

Her victory was assured, but she fell ill in the run-up to the race and revealed she was unsure whether she would compete.

Her victory was assured, but she fell ill in the run-up to the race and revealed she was unsure whether she would compete.

Her victory was assured, but she fell ill in the run-up to the race and revealed she was unsure whether she would compete.

The race was a struggle for the 22-year-old, who won gold by just 0.14 seconds on Wednesday

The race was a struggle for the 22-year-old, who won gold by just 0.14 seconds on Wednesday

The race was a struggle for the 22-year-old, who won gold by just 0.14 seconds on Wednesday

Instead of raising a glass last night, Hodgkinson said she would go straight to bed – the place where she had spent much of yesterday thinking about whether to race.

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“I was lying in bed thinking, ‘Can I run?’” Hodgkinson admitted. ‘I’m umming and ahing all day long.

‘I felt a bit of a painful threat yesterday and sniffled, but then it got worse. My body ached and I had a headache. I had vitamin C, aspirin, nasal spray, paracetamol. I just did everything I could to get rid of it.

“I decided to just run for the call room for ten minutes. So I’m pretty proud of myself for being on the start line and really attacking the gold, considering the circumstances.

‘I think I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t tried it. I had a title to defend and I really wanted to do that.

‘It’s the worst I’ve felt in a race, but it was about finding a way to win. If they wanted to beat me, they had to catch me. I had to believe in the fact that I am the defending champion. When I finished, it was just a relief.”

Hodgkinson’s time of 1 minute 58.65 seconds was more than three seconds slower than the personal best she set last year. Yet it was still enough for her to conquer the continent – ​​and she immediately turned her attention to trying to rule the world.

She revealed that she decided to run 10 minutes in front of the call room and that she was proud of herself for making it through the race

She revealed that she decided to run 10 minutes in front of the call room and that she was proud of herself for making it through the race

She revealed that she decided to run 10 minutes in front of the call room and that she was proud of herself for making it through the race

She said she took vitamin C, aspirin, nasal spray and paracetamol to 'get rid of it' in the build-up

She said she took vitamin C, aspirin, nasal spray and paracetamol to 'get rid of it' in the build-up

She said she took vitamin C, aspirin, nasal spray and paracetamol to ‘get rid of it’ in the build-up

Despite her young age, it is still an anomaly that Hodgkinson has yet to win a global gold medal.

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After claiming a breakthrough silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, she was disappointed to finish in the same color medal twice at the last two World Championships.

But she will be the favorite to win the big prize in Paris – provided she can recover quickly from her cold.

This season, Hodgkinson has already run almost a second faster than her nearest challenger, Kenyan Mary Moraa, who beat her to world gold in Budapest last summer. While American Olympic champion Athing Mu has not competed since last September due to hamstring problems.

It means Hodgkinson may be the best choice for Great Britain to win Olympic athletics gold this summer – something they failed to achieve at Tokyo 2020 for the first time since Atlanta 1996.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life,” she added. ‘I’m super excited about Paris. The next seven weeks are going to be incredible.

‘The Olympics are so special and it is a huge opportunity to change your life and I am ready for it. I really have confidence in it.’

Hodgkinson now has her sights set on Olympic gold when she competes in Paris this summer

Hodgkinson now has her sights set on Olympic gold when she competes in Paris this summer

Hodgkinson now has her sights set on Olympic gold when she competes in Paris this summer

Dina Asher-Amith (middle), meanwhile, won 100m gold and added 4x100m relay gold on Wednesday evening

Dina Asher-Amith (middle), meanwhile, won 100m gold and added 4x100m relay gold on Wednesday evening

Dina Asher-Amith (middle), meanwhile, won 100m gold and added 4x100m relay gold on Wednesday evening

Another athlete full of confidence is Dina Asher-Smith. She added to her individual 100m title last night with gold in the 4x100m relay, taking Britain’s medal tally to 13 and leaving them third on the medals table, which was comfortably led by hosts Italy.

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Asher-Smith ran the first leg of the relay before Desiree Henry, Amy Hunt and Daryll Neita brought home the baton in 41.91 seconds, ahead of France and the Netherlands.

“It feels special, I really wanted this one,” Asher-Smith said. “It was so smooth and so slippery. We want to do great things in Paris.”

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