“Keely and Emma Raducanu are once-in-a-generation sportswomen. There is not a queue of teenagers capable of doing what they have”
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Like Emma Raducanu she took it all in her stride, smiling in the face of pressure whilst picking off the best in the business.
Keely Hodgkinson started the year as one to watch and ends it as the one to beat. Another British teenager unwilling to wait her turn.
Not only was she crowned champion of the UK, Europe and Diamond League over 800 metres, she smashed Dame Kelly Holmes’ British record in winning Olympic silver.
Jenny Meadows, champion athlete turned mentor to Britain’s greatest track talent, admitted: “I’m supposed to inspire Keely but she inspires me!
“When I look at what she and Emma have achieved this summer, honestly it’s crazy. People say it’s the innocence of youth, I absolutely don’t think that it is.
“These are once-in-a-generation sportswomen. There is not a queue of teenagers capable of doing what they have.”
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For all that Hodgkinson is exceptional, Meadows also recognises the 19-year-old is fortunate to be competing now rather than when she did a decade ago.
Back then Russian doping meant female middle-distance running was anything but a level playing field. Meadows suffered more than most.
“I don’t talk to Keely too much about that,” she said. “I just tell her if you work hard you will get the rewards.
“That’s such a nice mindset to have as I would go into races anxious because I had no idea what was going to happen.
“Keely knows from training sessions what the benchmarks are, what she can achieve. The athletes all get on and respect each other, which just didn’t happen when I competed.
“Each of them seems to believe that the others are clean. And that nobody is unbeatable. It’s a lovely era. It seems like sport! Whereas It didn’t feel like a genuine sport when I competed.”
Hodgkinson appears to be loving life – from training, to racing to being invited to the upcoming James Bond film premiere.
“It’s vital she and Emma both continue having fun,” said Meadows, whose husband Trevor Painter coaches Keely. “Because the one regret I probably have in my career is that I didn’t enjoy it.
“I saw it as a responsibility. I found it quite stressful. Being in receipt of Lottery funding I’d feel really guilty if I had a day off or someone saw me shopping.
“These athletes are teenagers. We must remember that. Going forward we must look after them: keep them motivated but not forget they’re still so young.”