So close. Again. And poor Keely Hodgkinson must be wondering what on earth she has to do to crown her outstanding talent with a major outdoor 800m title.
At last year’s Tokyo Olympics, and the recent world championships in Eugene, the brilliant 20-year-old went toe-to-toe with the extraordinary American Athing Mu, only to leave clasping silver. And here at the Commonwealth Games, where she was the red-hot favourite, she fell victim to one of the bizarrest ever victory runs at a major championships.
It came from the Kenyan Mary Moraa, who strung out the field for the first 350m before suddenly dropping back to last after 550m. But just when it looked as if Moraa’s race was run, she began to pick off the rest of the field – and then went from fourth to first on the home straight before coming home in a rattling fast 1min 57.07sec.
No wonder Hodgkinson, who had to settle for silver in 1:57.40, was heartbroken. “I haven’t never seen that before,” she admitted. “People run the race differently. I hoped I would be ahead at 200m to go – that is how I beat her last time. Running is full of surprises.”
Indeed. The stats showed that Moraa had the fastest first 200m (25.9) and fastest final 200m (29.3) splits of the entire 800m field. But in between she also had the slowest middle 400m of 61.9.
“Frustrated is definitely the right word,” said Hodgkinson. “I am not sure what happened, it went so quick, maybe I could have been more patient with myself. But I gave it all.”
But at least Hodgkinson has another shot at glory at the European Championships in a couple of weeks’ time. And she is determined to make it count. “I will stay fuming until I am on top of that podium,” she added.
When Moraa was asked to explain her tactics, she said she had made them up on the hoof. “My plan was to go through quite fast in 57 or 58 secs, but after 300m I realised I was going too fast,” she explained. “I lost hope because everyone went past me. I was last. But when I got to 200m I started to close the gap. And with 120m to go I was counting 1-2-3-4 and I started to think I could win a medal. And I kept pushing.”
However Scotland’s Laura Muir was beaming after getting her vest just in front to take bronze from Natoya Goule in 1:57.87.
“My coach told me to go out hard, and I thought I did that, but I was still miles off it,” she said. “Oh my goodness, these girls are fast. I was fourth with 100m to go and I was like: ‘No way, no way’. But my coach said run to the line. And when he says that, you do that. But I had everything crossed for the photo finish. I was dying for that line.”
Muir’s bronze was confirmed despite the Jamaicans querying the photo finish decision, which dekayed the 800m medal ceremony.
Meanwhile Muir is now targeting gold in Sunday’s 1500m final. “I was determined, by doing the double, that I wasn’t going to waste not getting a medal,” she said. “I am so pleased. But I want that gold in the 1500m. Fingers crossed, the recovery will be quick.”
But the performance of the night came from Trinidad & Tobago’s Jereem Richards, who took 200m gold in a rapid 19.80sec despite glancing proudly at the clock over the final 20 metres. It was not only a personal best but a Commonwealth Games record. England’s Zharnel Hughes was also delighted after taking silver in 20.12.
Elsewhere on the penultimate day of track and field action, Alastair Chalmers won a shock bronze in the men’s 400m hurdles to secure Guernsey’s first Commonwealth Games victory on the track. “I have just made history for Guernsey,” said Chalmers after a race won by defending champion Kyron McMaster. “I am so proud. Love it.”
Meanwhile a thrilling men’s 10,000m final turned into a three way sprint, which was won by Jacob Kiplimo in a season’s best 13:08.08, ahead of Kenya’s Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli and Jacob Krop. England’s Marc Scott came fifth.
Earlier in the day Jake Wightman gave his all in a Commonwealth 1500m final for the ages. This time, though, the familiar formula didn’t quite work as Oliver Hoare swooped at the death to win Australia’s first middle distance gold at these Games since Herb Elliot in 1958.
“That was as good as I could have done,” said Wightman, who struck for gold with just over 200m remaining only to be surpassed by Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot and then Hoare. “I wanted to make a statement but I didn’t feel anywhere near as good as I did a couple of weeks ago.”
Meanwhile Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah added 200m gold to her 100m title in a Games’ record of 22.02. Nigeria’s Favour Ofili claimed the silver and Namibia’s Christine Mboma the bronze.