22 August 2023

Keely Hodgkinson must take chance to become a world beater – Sally Gunnell

22 August 2023

Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson must take her chance to become a world beater, according to Sally Gunnell.

The 1992 Olympic 400m hurdles champion believes Hodgkinson has the right mentality to secure her first global title at the World Championships.

Hodgkinson opens in the 800m heats on Wednesday with defending champion Athing Mu expected to compete after doubts over whether the American would travel to Hungary.

Kenya’s Mary Moraa also remains a threat to Hodgkinson – who has already won world and Olympic silver at the age of 21 – and Gunnell feels the Brit has the perfect chance in Budapest to top the podium.

“She’s still got many more years to go but sometimes you have to take these opportunities and now’s the time to do it,” she said.

“This week is going to be the big test of that, isn’t it? The last few years it has been about ‘wow, this new person is getting medals’.

“The stages you have to go in to be a top athlete, you’ve got to do your apprenticeship and this week is about going in as one of the favourites.

She's got a great mindset. She's competitive. She's focused, she trains hard. She's got absolutely everything

“She’s got massive competition in there, don’t get me wrong, so it’s not going to be an easy walkover by any means.

“These athletes don’t come by very often. It’s that outstanding talent and ability that somebody has, that natural ability she’s got.

“On top of that, she’s got a great mindset. She’s competitive. She’s focused, she trains hard. She’s got absolutely everything.

“She’s still young but she’s mature enough to be able to hold that and you almost feel like she has to take the opportunity because you don’t know what the next four years is going to be like.”

Gunnell’s husband Jon Bigg trains Jemma Reekie, who is also set to race in the 800m on Wednesday.

The 57-year-old, who won 400m hurdles gold at the World Championships in Stuttgart 30 years ago, believes this generation of athletes has the platform for success.

“It’s a very different era. Then we didn’t have the support of the National Lottery and being a full-time athlete,” she said.

“Now the support they have, the funding and the team that’s around them, has allowed us to have more depth and more are getting to finals.

“The pathway has been put in place. That’s the bit that is really showing us the difference.”

:: National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk

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