Emma Raducanu's success came days after fellow teen Keely Hodgkinson from Leigh took a global title
- Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Emma Raducanu’s meteoric rise has been grabbing the headlines, but just days before her historic win New York, another British teenager put her name in the sporting record books.
Keely Hodgkinson didn’t emerge as a world star as suddenly as Raducanu burst on to the scene, but her impact has been no less dramatic.
The 19-year-old from Atherton took a silver medal from the Olympic Games in Tokyo and while Raducanu was battling through to the final, Hodgkinson won the 800m trophy at the Diamond League final in Zurich.
And Keely, a member of Leigh Harriers Athletics Club, is coached by another of Lancashire’s track stars, Jenny Meadows, who held the Diamond League 800m title a decade ago.
Jenny, from Wigan, said: ‘It has been such a great year. We have kept having to adjust our goals for Keely as she kept exceeding our expectations.
‘When we took her on a couple of years ago, she wasn’t really doing the right training but she has really responded well to every stimulus and she has blown everyone away. We’ve tried not to over-coach her because she’s got something very genuine and she has great instincts and we want her to keep her fearlessness.’
Jenny’s husband Trevor Painter is Keely’s lead coach but Jenny is on hand to give advice about training schedules and race tactics. And she added: ‘One of my biggest regrets in athletics is that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have done.
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‘I would stand on the start line and feel the pressure and the expectation of all the people watching me from home. Keely is different and that helps us because we have total faith in her and we can relax as well.
‘When I retired I thought that was it for me and athletics, but with Trevor being down at the track five nights a week I couldn’t escape so I started mentoring a couple of athletes and I do really enjoy what I’m doing now with young athletes.
‘I really feel for the young generation after the year they’ve had to go through, with home-schooling and all the disruption to sport. I’m really looking forward to a proper year of training and competition.
‘The main things for Keely next year are the World Championships in the US and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, but there’s also the European Championships. I think she’s capable of doing all of them, but we’re not committed yet, we’ll see how she goes.’
Jenny is an ambassador for National Sporting Heritage Day – a nationwide celebration of the people, events and memorabilia who make up our collective sporting story – and she hopes the event will help more people find positive role models.
She remembers being an 11-year-old girl watching Sally Gunnell win Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992 and the effect that had on her. ‘It made me think “If she can do that, so can I”,’ she said.
‘There is evidence that girls have less confidence in sport and physical activity and there is research which I find quite shocking that they can start having doubts about their body image as early as seven years old.
‘I think women and girls can often over-think things and tend to see the worst version of themselves and the best version of others.
‘It’s really important to have role models and people girls can look up to and Keely has already had a real impact but it’s also important to say that you don’t have achieve what she has done and you don’t have to do it when you’re so young – she is one of those once-in-a-generation athletes. I ran my PB and won my first major medal when I was 28 – it’s different for different people.
‘My mum started a scrap book when I was young and would cut out pieces from local newspapers whenever I was mentioned. Then when I was in my teens she gave me ownership of the book and told me to carry it on. I wasn’t sure I wanted to at the time, but I’m so grateful to her now – it's lovely to look back on.
‘When we were in Lausanne for the Diamond League this season I went to the Olympic Museum for the first time and really enjoyed looking at how things have developed over the years, and then Keely was asked to donate something to the museum! Hopefully she will help to inspire the next generation.’
National Sporting Heritage Day takes place on September 30. Find out more at sportingheritage.org.uk.