Hodgkinson wins stunning 800m silver in Tokyo - our day five Olympics report

Keely Hodgkinson’s sensational 800m silver and national record ended the wait for Team GB’s first track and field medal of Tokyo 2020. The 19-year-old Leigh Harrier chased home American Athing Mu to clock 1:55.88, becoming the fourth fastest under-20 in history.

It took a US record from Mu (1:55.21) to deny the youngest member of Britain’s track and field team in Tokyo. Moving comfortably clear for silver in the home straight, the next surprise for her was the time, which broke Kelly Holmes’ 26-year-old British record of 1:56.21. The Trevor Painter-coached athlete added to her growing list of accolades, which have included European indoor gold last winter and the European youth title in 2018. Before she had time for it all to sink in, she said:

“I’m pretty speechless right now, I don’t really have much to say. That record has stood I think since ’95.

“Kelly is a massive legend of the sport and always will be with that double Olympic gold. She seems like such a lovely girl, she sent us all a few messages the last couple of days and has been so supportive, so yeah I’m quite in shock about that time but I couldn’t be happier really. I really executed that well.”

“The whole thing is cloud nine really. From the European indoors to breaking some records to now, the biggest stage in the world, still a junior, it’s absolutely crazy.”

Behind Scot Jemma Reekie in fourth, another English athlete, Alex Bell was in the form of her life too. Bell (Pudsey & Bramley; Andrew Henderson), who was only in the event as a late replacement for Laura Muir, finished seventh in 1:57.66. The time took her to sixth on the UK all-time list. She said afterwards:

“After the first 200m I was out the back door and I thought the legs had come off already, so when I crossed the line and I saw the actual time flash up on the board, that’s why I was so surprised because it was not that it was a PB, but the fact that it was that time, and that Keely got the record as well, which is absolutely unbelievable for her. It was amazing out there. Crowds or no crowds it was still an amazing track to be on.”

Harry Coppell (Wigan & District; Scott Simpson) equalled the third best ever performance at the Olympics by a British male pole vaulter when he finished seventh with a season’s best of 5.80m. He had second-time clearances at 5.70m and 5.80m to give himself a shot at 5.87m, which would have been a PB by 2cm and ultimately won him a medal behind the dominant winner, Armand Duplantis of Sweden. On his performance, he said:

“It was just an unreal experience. It’s still sinking in, and to come out with a seventh-place finish is unreal. Part of me is a little bit gutted because I had a really good attempt at 5.87m and that would have really put me in the fight for the medals, but for my first Games this is amazing. We can build from here. We’ve changed a lot going into this year and it’s going to take time to get them right. I can’t wait to see how things progress going forward.”

Despite recording her third best-ever jump, Jazmin Sawyers had to be happy with eighth in the long jump with 6.80m. The City of Stoke athlete was left disappointed with coming within 20cm of the gold medal, which was won by Germany’s Malaika Mihambo. Sawyers, who matched her position from Rio 2016, said afterwards: “I’m disappointed. Any Olympic final is an achievement but at this point in my career I think I would be doing myself a disservice if I was satisfied with eighth place. I think in a competition like that, where there were no crazy distances, it was an opportunity to get on the podium and I couldn’t manage that today which I am disappointed by. But I still did well but it’s just not what I want.”

The other English athlete in the final, Abigail Irozuru (Sale Harriers Manchester; Aston Moore), was 11th with 6.51m. Disappointed not to be able to reproduce her 6.75m form from the qualifying round, she said: “Today I did not unfortunately do what I came to do. I did think there was more in my legs but my runway was just quite off, and I couldn’t quite put it together.”

In the 400m, Jodie Williams (Herts Phoenix; Ryan Frekleton) showed she is clearly in the shape of her life as she won her heat looking very controlled in 50.99. Seventh fastest overall, her time was just 0.05 slower than her PB. Williams, who reached the Olympic semi-final over 200m in 2016, said:

“It felt great, like I didn’t really put a huge amount into any of it really and I felt really smooth in that first 300m and I just tried to put myself in a really good position coming off the top bend. I wanted to take the win because I know how important the semi-finals are so, yes, I am happy with it. I executed my plan, I stayed nice and smooth, didn’t put too much in the first 300m really and got myself into a really good position to come home. I’m happy with it.”

It was not as easy for team-mate Ama Pipi (Enfield & Haringey; Linford Christie) but she clocked the fastest non-automatic qualifying time for fourth in a tough heat. Her 51.17 was just nine hundredths outside her PB. She said:

“Getting through is always the aim and anything is possible if you just believe, so I feel good. I have just been filled with inspiration and belief, so I am having a really good time. As a little girl I have always wanted to compete here so now that I am actually here it’s really cool.”

However, the English male sprinters had less success in their 200m qualifying. Adam Gemili (Blackheath & Bromley; Rana Reider), who was fifth in the Rio 2016 final, pulled up straight out of the blocks with a hamstring injury he sustained in warm-up. A distraught Gemili said afterwards: “The last  run, literally the last run before I came into the call room, the last blocks start and I felt it go. It’s my hamstring. I had to try but I’m in so much pain right now – I said to my physio, ‘Just strap it up and let me at least try to push out,’ but I can tell straight away. You don’t just cramp up when you sprint – it was a tear. I can’t believe this has happened.”

It was the end of the road too for Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Newham & Essex Beagles) despite a season’s best of 20.56. He was fifth in his heat but it was just 0.01 off the time required for one of the fastest loser spots. The athlete who was fourth in the 2017 World Championships said: “It was a season’s best time, but you have to take that with a grain of salt and understand that I am moving forwards, just a little slower than I want to.”

Andrew Pozzi (Stratford upon Avon; Santiago Antunez) progressed as expected from the 110m hurdles heats despite seeming to clash arms with the athlete in the adjacent lane. Clocking 13.50 for fourth in his heat, he was the last of the four automatic qualifiers for the semi-finals and said:

“It’s one of those things in hurdles it happens an awful lot. I haven’t seen the race back so I don’t know quite how it happened. However, we live to fight another day and everyone starts again fresh tomorrow.”

Scott Lincoln (City of York; Paul Wilson), who was bidding to become the first British shot-putter to reach the Olympic final in 40 years, fell short with a best of 20.42m in 18th overall. It was the fifth best of his career but ultimately around half a metre down on what was required. Reflecting on his time in Tokyo, he said:

“Being an Olympian was the goal. I’m obviously disappointed that I’m not in the final, because it was there for the taking, but on the other hand it’s my first major, so I think I handled myself pretty well, and I think it was a pretty decent reflection of how my season has been going. I just wish that it had all clicked. The second throw was so close – it just slipped off my finger at the last minute – but it is what it is, I’ve got to take it and move forward. I’ve definitely come away with more positives than negatives that’s for sure.”

Ben Williams (City of Stoke; Aston Moore) was just 7cm off his season’s best with 16.30m but it was not enough to make the final of the triple jump. He had just one valid jump of 16.30m, which placed him 22nd with 12 to go through. A disappointed Williams, who had surgery last November and took longer to recover than expected, said: “The body feels great, and the mind is right, and it just didn’t click today.” He added: “I don’t want to just keep making teams and not making finals. We will sit down and see if my body holds up enough to carry on.”

Marc Scott just missed out on a place in the 5000m final, finding himself in a slow heat and unable to pull through as one of the five automatic qualifiers. The Cambridge & Coleridge athlete, who was 14th in the 10,000m final last Friday, was sixth in 13:39.61. “I do believe I belong here and I think I displayed that tonight,” he said. “The 10km didn’t quite go my way but I’m pleased with my race tonight.”