Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter, club: Leigh) added another superb silver medal to her major medal collection on the final night in Budapest as brilliant bronze medals for both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay quartets powered the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team to their best World Athletics Championships to match the record medal haul from 1993.
Hodgkinson’s bid in the women’s 800m has slowly built up to the final night in Hungary and it was worth the wait as she surged to silver down the home straight – storming past reigning world and Olympic champion Athing Mu (USA) – clocking a time of 1:56.34 minutes, just 0.31 seconds off Kenyan gold medallist Mary Moraa. British teammate Jemma Reekie (Jon Big, Kilbarchan) competed with the three medallists throughout and placed fifth in 1:57.72.
In the penultimate event of the Championships the British men’s 4x400m relay team of Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Slough Eton Hounslow), Charlie Dobson (Benke Blomkvist, Colchester), Lewis Davey (Trevor Painter, Newham & Essex Beagles) and Rio Mitcham (Leon Baptiste, Birchfield) powered to a brilliant bronze – the latter running a storming leg as they guaranteed a podium place in 2:58.71.
Then in the very final event, the British women’s 4x400m relay team of Laviai Nielsen (Phillip Unfried, Enfield & Haringey), Amber Anning (Chris Johnson, Brighton & Hove), Ama Pipi (Linford Christie, Enfield & Haringey) and Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson, Pitreavie) claimed their own bronze medal after an all-round strong performance – the quartet clocking their second quickest time ever in the event in 3:21.04.
In the only other individual final on the closing night, Morgan Lake (Robbie Grabarz, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) produced the best performance of her career as the former world junior champion finished a superb fourth in the women’s high jump final – coming so close to a maiden global senior medal but finishing her series with a best height of 1.97m, that an outdoor personal best.
Hodgkinson’s superb silver in the women’s 800m final and the brilliant bronze medals from the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay quartets gave the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team three fantastic medals on the final night in Budapest and pushed the overall total to an impressive ten – two gold, three silver and five bronzes – their equal best ever World Athletics Championships after the same haul was achieved in Stuttgart 30 years ago in 1993.
Hodgkinson said: “To be consistently up with the best in the world is all I want from my career. [It is] another podium, another medal so that is definitely a positive, but I did think I was going to come through on the inside. The line just came quicker than I thought it would.
“I gave it my all, like I always do. I don’t think I put a foot wrong – I’ll have to go watch it back again – but consistency. Another silver – it’s not bronze, it’s not gold – we’re still on the podium.”
In one the most anticipated finals of the entire Championships – scheduled for the very last night in Budapest – the women’s 800m final involving Hodgkinson and Reekie certainly delivered a race for the ages.
Hodgkinson, Mu and Moraa all set off from the gun to get to the front and it was the American world and Olympic champion – unbeaten in the distance for over three years – who got there. Hodgkinson settled into second with Moraa on her shoulder and Reekie placing herself fourth.
Through the bell – the first lap was run in 56.01 – Hodgkinson was fourth and Reekie third while Moraa went about pushing in front of Mu. Immediately around the bend of the last lap Mu appeared to start stretching the field out but with 300m to go it was well and truly a four-way battle for the medals.
Hodgkinson and Reekie set about chasing Mu and Moraa before it all changed on the home straight. Mu faded with 50m to go with Moraa surging ahead for the eventual gold medal in a personal best 1:56.03 while Hodgkinson dug deep and got in front of the American for silver in 1:56.34.
“I do love it. I was really looking forward to today. I was really up for it. I really did believe I was going to win again – you’ve got to believe, that is half the battle. It is a different order to last year, who knows what order it will be next year. One of these days I will get the top spot, today was just not meant to be.
“Olympic year – everyone brings even more of their A game than they usually do. There is no stone left unturned. Like I say, we’ll aim for gold again and see what happens.”
Reekie meanwhile gave it her all in the women’s 800m final, boldly going – and sticking with – the three favourites for the podium. She was in fourth coming into the final 100m and pushed all the way to the line to eventually finish fifth in 1:57.72.
She said: “I am proud of the way I ran it. I was brave and I went out, it was probably just a bit hot in the first lap. I am proud of the way I’ve run this season. I went to Jon [her coach] in an absolute mess and our goal was always to run under two minutes again consistently. To be here in the final is exciting for next year.
“It was always going to be hard [change of coach]. I was in the set up before for a long time. You build those relationships up but Jon has made it as smooth as he can for me and we are excited for the future. I am loving working with him.
“I really wanted to be up in those medals today but those girls are strong. I have got a lot of work to do but I reckon we can do it for next year.”
In the men’s 4x400m relay final, Haydock-Wilson – the individual 400m bronze medallist from last year’s European Championships – led the continental champions out on the opening leg and ran superbly to get the British team into second, right on the shoulder of the eventual winners America.
He handed over to Dobson, who at the cut in placed himself fourth with nothing separating the entire field at this stage. Dobson went wide down the home straight and produced a fine finish for a rapid overall leg to hand over with the team in second.
Davey kept it that way after the changeover with Dobson and kept France at bay in third for much of the first 200m. He faced a battle down the home straight but hung on brilliantly to keep the team in medal contention in third.
Mitcham, the only member of the team not part of the European Championship winning quartet last year but like Davey a silver medallist in the mixed 4x400m relay on the opening day of the Championships, had the task of keeping the team in the medals and he did that supremely well despite the chase of Jamaican world 400m Antonio Watson.
The Jamaican arrived on Mitcham’s shoulder with 200m to go but the Briton kept extremely strong and simply would not allow Watson to pass, surging ahead over the final metres to ensure bronze in 2:58.71, just 0.26 away from France in silver in the end.
Haydock-Wilson: “We come out here and we know that these are the worlds best. In fact it wasn’t long ago that all of us were just watching them on TV thinking ‘man, where would I be in a race like that?’ – and here we are on the podium in a race like that.”
Dobson said: “That [his 43.7 split] is unreal. I’m speechless. I am even more speechless than I was two minutes ago. Everything I had to do was for the team. I just had to get in a good position to hand off to Lewis so he could get around again and get to Rio and get around again and get a medal. That’s exactly what we managed to do.”
Mitcham said: “I don’t doubt these guys one bit. When he [Watson] came up on my shoulder, I didn’t doubt myself a single, single, single, single centimetre. I just knew I had it in us. Haydock’s the guy, Charlie 43.7 – we already know he’s the guy – Lewis he is the guy. I can’t say anything else, I’m too happy. I love these boys, this is what we do it for. That’s it.”
The women’s 4x400m relay final closed the entire Championships in Budapest and the experienced Nielsen – like Davey and Mitcham part of the silver-medal winning mixed quartet – led the British team out superbly.
There was not much between the entire field after the first 200m and she hung close to Jamaican Candice McLeod to hand over to Anning in second. Anning had to contend with a fast first 100m of the second lap but cut in with the team in second.
Jamaica pulled away with Anning battling with the Dutch and Canada but she held strong on that second leg. Pipi received the baton from Anning with there now nothing between herself, Jamaica in the lead and the Dutch behind.
Anning stalked leader Nickisha Pyrce down the home straight and passed in second to Yeargin for an extremely eventful final lap. Jamaican Stacey Ann Williams went out very hard and Yeargin – under pressure from Dutch world 400m hurdles champion Femke Bol – kept with her.
The final metres would be packed with drama as Bol surged to take gold for the Dutch while Yeargin battled to reel in the slow finishing Jamaican Williams. Yeargin just missed out but did more than enough for bronze in a rapid 3:21.04, 0.16 off Jamaica in silver.
Anning said: “I knew the second leg was going to be the strongest. I wanted to go out there and run similar to how I did in the heats. I wanted to get us in a good position and help Nicole and Ama. It was fun. Watching the boys get the bronze gave me so much energy. I knew we could do it and I am just so proud of the girls who brought it home.”
Yeargin said: “I was happy to be in the position I was. All the ladies did so well. I held my own. I tried my best. The last two metres got real loud and it was good entertainment at least. I was swimming for the line.”
Lake was the last British athlete to compete individually at these Championships and what a competition it was for the world junior champion in both the high jump and heptathlon from nine years ago.
She started the women’s high jump final at the earliest opportunity, 1.85m, going clear first time and doing the same at 1.90m. Lake was put under extreme pressure thereafter but dealt with it incredibly well in what would be the best performance of her senior career.
That’s because she was drinking in the last chance saloon at 1.94m, remaining composed to clear at the third and final attempt before having to do the same all over again at the next height of 1.97m.
Lake got better at each attempt at 1.97m and meticulously visualised her final effort, getting it spot on and producing a great leap, which would secure her a place in the top four with only four athletes remaining.
As the bar moved to 1.99m, Lake’s first attempt looked great but was a foul and she was then so close next time only to knock the bar again. At this point the three other athletes had cleared which meant a clearance would have kept her fourth.
She opted to pass and attempt 2.01m and just narrowly failed to clear with the only chance she was allowed. Still fourth at the World Championships with an outdoor personal best 1.97m represents arguably the best performance of her career.
Lake said: “It is a bittersweet moment right now, but I think in a few weeks’ time I will look back at this moment and be really proud of this. Fourth in the world is something I am very happy with. I was so close to a medal which stings a bit. But I am so grateful with how the season has panned out.
“Third attempt at 1.94m, third attempt at 1.97m – I think after clearing 1.94m it gave me that confidence for the next jump. Obviously, it is not fun to do third attempts which is something I need to get better at. But I just had that feeling of just staying in the fight. It’s good to know I can perform under pressure as well.
“My coach Robbie Grabarz has been there and done it. We’ve been working on keeping very calm. If I get a bit overexcited, the run-up goes a bit quick and I miss my mark, everything is rushed. So, every jump I take a breath and relax. It sounds so easy, but I have to trust that is the right thing to do.”
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally:
Gold (2): Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Women’s Heptathlon, Josh Kerr – Men’s 1500m
Silver (3): Mixed 4x400m Relay, Matthew Hudson-Smith – Men’s 400m, Keely Hodgkinson – Women’s 800m
Bronze (5): Zharnel Hughes – Men’s 100m, Ben Pattison – Men’s 800m, Women’s 4x100m relay, Men’s 4x400m Relay, Women’s 4x400m Relay