So close. Again. And poor Keely Hodgkinson must be wondering what on earth she has to do to crown her extraordinary talent with a major outdoor title in the 800m.
At last year’s Olympics in Tokyo and the recent World Championships in Eugene, the brilliant 20-year-old went head-to-head with the extraordinary American Athing Mu, only to grab silver. And here at the Commonwealth Games, where she was the hot favorite, she fell victim to one of the most bizarre victories ever at a major championship.
It came from Kenyan Mary Moraa, who pushed out the field for the first 350 meters before suddenly falling back to the last after 550 meters. But just when it looked like Moraa’s race was over, she started to pick the rest of the field – then went from fourth to first on the 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’ve never seen that before,” she admitted. “People run the race differently. I was hoping to be 200m ahead – that’s how I beat her last time. Running is full of surprises.”
Indeed. The statistics showed that Moraa had the fastest first 200m (25.9) and fastest last 200m (29.3) of the entire 800m field. But in between she also had the slowest middle 400m of 61.9.
“Frustrated is definitely the right word,” Hodgkinson said. “I’m not sure what happened, it went so fast, maybe I could have been more patient with myself. But I gave everything.”
But Hodgkinson will at least have another shot at glory at the European Championship in a few weeks. And she’s determined to make it count. “I’ll keep smoking until I’m on that podium,” she added.
When Moraa was asked to explain her tactics, she said she made them up on the hoof. “My plan was to go pretty fast in 57 or 58 seconds, but after 300 meters I realized I was going too fast,” she explained. “I lost hope because everyone passed me. I was the last. But when I reached the 200 meters, I started to close the gap. And with 120 meters to go, I counted 1-2-3-4 and started to think I could win a medal. And I kept pushing.”
Scottish Laura Muir beamed after getting her vest right in front of her to take bronze from Natoya Goule in 1:57.87. “My coach told me to go hard, and I thought I did, but I was still miles away from it,” she said.
“Oh my god, 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, do you that. But I had crossed everything for the photo finish. I was terrified of that line.”
Muir’s bronze was confirmed despite the Jamaicans questioning the decision to take the photo, delaying the 800m ceremony.
Meanwhile, Muir is now aiming for gold in Sunday’s 1500 meters final. “I was determined by doing double that I wouldn’t waste it without getting a medal,” she said. “I am very satisfied. But I want gold in the 1500m. Fingers crossed, the recovery will be fast.”
But the evening’s performance came from Trinidad & Tobago’s Jereem Richards, who took the 200m gold in a swift 19.80 seconds, despite a proud glance at the clock over the last 20m. It was not only a personal best, but also a Commonwealth Games record. England’s Zharnel Hughes was also delighted after taking silver in 20.12.
Elsewhere on the penultimate day of the track and field action, Alastair Chalmers won a shock bronze in the men’s 400m hurdles to secure Guernsey’s first Commonwealth Games win on the track. “I just made history for Guernsey,” said Chalmers after a race won by defending champion Kyron McMaster. “I’m so proud. Love it.”
Meanwhile, a thrilling final of the men’s 10,000m turned into a three-way sprint, which was won by Jacob Kiplimo in the season’s best time of 13:08.08, ahead of Kenyan Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli and Jacob Krop. England’s Marc Scott was fifth.
Earlier in the day, Jake Wightman gave it his all in an age-old Commonwealth 1500m final. This time, however, the familiar formula didn’t quite work, as Oliver Hoare dove to Australia at death to win Australia’s first gold in the middle distance since Herb Elliot in 1958.
“That was as good as I could have done,” said Wightman, who struck for gold with just over 200 meters to go only to be outdone by Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot and then Hoare. “I wanted to make a statement, but I didn’t feel nearly as good as a few weeks ago.”
Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah added 200m gold to her 100m title in a Games record of 22.02. Favor Ofili from Nigeria claimed the silver and Christine Mboma from Namibia the bronze.