Keely Hodgkinson goes in search of more success in Istanbul at the European Indoor Championships, arriving in Turkey in supreme form.

Hodgkinson bids to defend her European title on the back of a British record run in Birmingham last weekend, powering to a time of 1:57.18 and finishing some distance ahead of the rest of the field.

It continues an incredible rise for the Leigh-based middle-distance runner, who would appear primed to continue to star in the lead up to a busy 24 months for the world’s top athletes.

To call 2023 a potential breakthrough year for Hodgkinson would understate her achievements to this point – already the 21-year-old has a European gold medal over two laps of the track outdoors.

She starts in Istanbul as a major favourite to retain an indoor crown that announced her talent on the senior stage in Torun two years ago – and perhaps even push to add a world record to the national best time achieved at the World Indoor Tour final.

In a quirk of fate, Jolanda Ceplak’s current record time of 1:55.82 was set on 3 March 2002, the day of Hodgkinson’s birth.

“I’ve had time to calm down,” said Hodgkinson after coming home a second and a half shy of Ceplak’s mark in Birmingham. “It’s a British record so I can’t complain but you know when you are capable of so much more. I’m a bit gutted. I felt I was on pace, but the last 50m it got away from me.

“When you set your goals high, you want to achieve them. It was tough to get the world record, but I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep coming back to give it a go.”

Hodgkinson faces a weaker field in Turkey, with Europe possessing few of the world’s best 800m runners. Of the other finalists from the World Athletics Championships in Eugene last year, only Slovenia’s Anita Horvat is competing in Istanbul.

Hodgkinson took victory in her heat, dragging Majtie Kolberg of Germany to a personal best time, and would appear to have more to spare.

While any gold will be a welcome addition to her already well-stocked connection, a major global title does still elude the British runner at senior level, and would be the main target of 2023.

Come the next World Championships in Budapest in August, and indeed the Olympics in Paris next year, Hodgkinson’s competition will be significantly stiffer.

The narrow defeat to Athing Mu by eight one-hundreths of a second at the Worlds last year has stuck with Hodgkinson, having also been edged out by the American at Tokyo 2020.

“The training is so hard but it’s what I’ve got to do,” she told Athletics Weekly. “When I get to the last rep I think: ‘Just remember 0.08’. That will help me get through.”

An extraordinary finish by Mary Moraa also denied Hodgkinson gold at a home Commonwealth Games last summer, leaving plenty to drive her to kick on in 2023.

And free of some injury niggles that hampered her last year, an indoor European title could springboard Hodgkinson to even greater sustained success.

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