Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter; club: Leigh) claimed silver in a dramatic women’s 800m final and the women’s 4x400m relay team took bronze as Great Britain & Northern Ireland finished with seven medals at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.
As much anticipated, Olympic silver medallist Hodgkinson and gold medallist Athing Mu delivered a women’s 800m final for the ages but it was the American who would win again but by a fine margin following a surge from the British record holder in the final 100 metres.
Hodgkinson ran her second fastest time ever, 1:56.38 minutes, for silver, just 0.08 seconds shy of Mu’s world lead before Victoria Ohuruogu (Christine Ohuruogu; Newham & Essex Beagles), Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson; Pitreavie), Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong; WSEH) and Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey) ensured the women’s 4x400m relay quartet returned to the world podium with a brilliant bronze as Britain matched their overall medal tally of seven from Beijing in 2015 and Moscow in 2013.
Sandwiched in between the two, Cindy Sember (Jeff Porter; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) finished fifth in the women’s 100m hurdles, an illegal wind preventing her impressive 12.38 from officially lowering the British record she set in the semi-final.
Elsewhere in the women’s long jump Jazmin Sawyers (Lance Brauman; City of Stoke) was ninth and Lorraine Ugen (Dwight Phillips; Thames Valley) tenth while Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher; Richmond & Zetland) was 14th in his first World Championship final in the men’s 5000m.
In arguably one of the most anticipated finals of these World Championships, neither Hodgkinson and American rival Mu looked like they wanted to take the front after the first 100 metres of the women’s 800m final.
Mu, however, would go for home early, surging to the front down the back straight and creating a gap between her and Hodgkinson. The British Olympic silver medallist from Tokyo wouldn’t be put off though and slowly chipped away at the American.
By the time the final bend was complete the pair were neck and neck with Hodgkinson looking for a gap on the inside. She couldn’t quite find it with Mu shutting the door to win in a world lead 1:56.30 ahead of the Brit’s season’s best and second fastest ever 1:56.38.
Hodgkinson said: “I’m satisfied but not overjoyed. I’m a little disappointed that I missed out on gold by 0.08 which is tiny margins that I’ve worked so hard to close but I’ll take the positives.
“I’ve closed the gap, I’m getting closer. I’ve got a lot of respect for these athletes, particularly Athing. She’s competing in front of a home crowd as Olympic champion, so there was a lot of pressure for a 20-year-old. But I’ll take the silver and assess it.
“My goal in my career is to try and medal at every single championships. I’m keeping the ball rolling, so I am happy about that. I tried to take the shortest route. I don’t regret it because I could have wasted a lot of energy by moving out and going around her.
“I just thought I’d try to sneak down the inside. I knew it would come down to the last 50m, so it was just a case of holding form, and seeing what was left. We’ve worked so hard over the winter to close that gap with Athing. It has paid off, I can’t say it hasn’t.”
In the final event of these World Championships, the British women’s 4x400m relay team were bidding to put to bed the fact that they missed out on a medal for the first time in eight editions last time out in Doha in 2019.
Ohuruogu, who’s sister Christine featured in six of those seven World Championship medal-winning performances, got the team off to a strong start before handing over to Yeargin who tucked nicely into third and would create distance from fourth in her leg.
Knight immediately moved into second after receiving the baton from Yeargin and, despite being passed by Jamaican Stephenie-Ann McPherson before the bend, she had lengthened the gap from fourth leaving Nielsen to take it home on anchor.
Nielsen, who was part of that team from three years ago in Doha that cruelly finished fourth, stopped the clock at 3:22.64 for bronze and a seventh medal for the British team in Oregon, the same number won at the 2015 and 2013 World Championships.
Ohuruogu said: “I can’t lie, I felt a bit rusty [in the heats]. I’m the kind of athlete that needs a run out first. I did feel really good in warm up, I didn’t think I was going to be as fast as 50.5 but I am just glad I led them off to a good start because I knew it was going to be tough with USA and Jamaica.”
Yeargin said: “I knew we could do it and we were right in the pack. I can’t wait for next year.”
Knight said: “It has been such a dream running with these girls. There is so much potential in this team and there are other girls not running here at the moment as well. I just want to soak this up, these moments don’t come around very often.”
Nielsen said: “It was exciting. I kept thinking ‘I can’t believe we’re in bronze, I can’t believe we’re in bronze’. We knew we could do it. I also want to say thank you to Ama Pipi [replaced by Knight for the final], this medal is as much hers as it is ours and Zoey Clark who has been a fantastic team member.
“Matthew Hudson-Smith, who is a medallist in his own right and has been helping us in the warm-up area, grabbing water and ice towels for us and Martyn Rooney who has gone from being an athlete to team staff at these championships – we couldn’t have done it without them.”
Sember lit up the track as the first Brit in action on the final night in Eugene, breaking her sister Tiffany Porter’s near eight-year British record to qualify out of the semi-finals of the women’s 100m hurdles.
She took the honour off her sister by 0.01 as she clocked 12.50 in a race that saw Nigerian Tobi Amusan smash a new world record of 12.12. The final was even quicker as Sember finished a fine fifth but the wind gage prevented any further records from standing.
Sember ran 12.38 behind an illegal +2.5 win – that itself better than her sister’s wind-assisted best of 12.47 from over ten years ago – and she said: “It was good and fun and very competitive but I would have liked to have brought back some hardware as I was definitely gunning for it.
“It keeps me hungry, I know I am in good form and I am going to bring back some hardware soon. I am in the form of my life, I have never run this fast in my life and so I give god the glory for the progress.
“I know there’s more in the tank, and I’m just waiting for when it is supposed to come. My body just hasn’t run that fast yet and it’s getting used to it, but once it does I think there’s something special to come.”
Sawyers got off to a great start in the women’s long jump final, attacking hard with her first attempt to record 6.62m, just 0.06m shy of her equal season’s best effort that saw her advance through qualifying.
However, try as she might she couldn’t improve on that with a 6.50m second time out and a 6.56m third – only the top eight securing another three jumps and Sawyers cruelly pushed down to ninth by eventual champion from Germany Malaika Mihambo.
Sawyers said: “My first jump was alright but I just wasn’t good enough. I don’t have any excuses, I don’t have any real reason I just wasn’t good enough. It’s a bad day and I’m very disappointed.
“I dropped my foot in my final jump – it should have been a 70s-plus jump but I dropped my foot out the end. I shouldn’t have done that but I was focussing on something else and it cost me.
“I’m just gutted, I think it’s a good thing to feel how it really feels rather than just immediately moving on. I’ll deal with that later. For now I am gutted and I should be because I underperformed.”
Meanwhile Ugen, who won world indoor bronze back in March and has been fifth twice previously in World Championship finals outdoors, jumped a best of 6.53m in between two fouls to finish tenth.
In the men’s 5000m final Scott stayed comfortable towards the back of the field as the tempo ebbed and flowed throughout the opening laps, initially a red-hot pace set before it slowed at Hayward Field.
Scott would lose touch with 600m to go but battled valiantly in the heat to clock 13:41.04 for 14th in his first World Championship final in Oregon. He said: “I felt dead most of the way. It’s just the way I’ve been feeling. No excuses just not feeling great.
“It is what it is but not what you want to experience in a world final. That’s one of my strengths [the 6-800m burn up] – I should be able to be there and be able to challenge for that sort of stuff and I am just obviously very disappointed in not being able to.”
Great Britain and Northern Ireland Medal tally: (7)
Gold: Jake Wightman – 1500m
Silver: Keely Hodgkinson – 800m
Bronze: Laura Muir – 1500m
Bronze: Dina Asher-Smith – 200m
Bronze: Matt Hudson-Smith – 400m
Bronze: Men – 4x100m relay
Bronze: Women – 4x400m Relay