23rd August 2023
HODGKINSON, HUGHES & ASHER-SMITH ALL VICTORIOUS AS SIX GB&NI ATHLETES PROGRESS IN BUDAPEST
Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter, club: Leigh), Zharnel Hughes (Glen Mills, Shaftesbury Barnet) and Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) were all victorious during the morning session on day five of the World Athletics Championships as six British athletes from three events in Budapest progressed from heats to semi-finals.
Hodgkinson returns to the global stage 13 months on from claiming women’s 800m silver in Eugene and cruised through to the semi-finals with victory in her heat in 1:59.53 minutes. That was the fourth quickest time and she’ll be joined in the semi-finals by teammate (Jon Bigg, Kilbarchan) who finished second in the fifth heat in 1:59.71, eighth overall.
Hughes meanwhile has already claimed a brilliant bronze in the 100m in Hungary – and a first British medal at a World Championships over the distance for 20 years – and he looked extremely comfortable as he advanced out of the men’s 200m heats with victory, easily clocking the quickest time overall of 19.99 seconds despite running only two thirds at full speed.
The women’s 200m heats were sandwiched in between Hodgkinson and Reekie in the women’s 800m and Hughes in the men’s 200m with Asher-Smith winning the sixth and final heat in 22.46 while Daryll Neita (Marco Airale, Cambridge Harriers) was second in the first but quicker in 22.39 to place sixth overall, two places ahead of her teammate.
Bianca Williams (Linford Christie, Thames Valley) ensured an automatic British clean sweep in the women’s 200m after posting 22.67 in heat four.
In total six of the seven athletes in action progressed and Hodgkinson said: “I felt like I ran a good race. I trusted in my last 200m to get me through. I am in really good shape and I am ready for any type of race.
“I need to trust my race and my ability, I’m not really focusing on anyone else. Because we have a day off in between rounds, it allowed me to give a bit more. Everyone is looking for a spot to qualify and are running their absolute best, so you just have to be careful.”
Hodgkinson was drawn in the first heat of seven in the women’s 800m as a morning session returned on day five of these World Championships and, despite admitting to racing slightly differently, she breezed into the semi-finals.
After a steady first 200m, Hodgkinson settled in behind the leaders in fifth place as Poland’s Angelika Sarna took the heat out. The Brit started moving down the back straight on the second lap and was third with 200m to go.
She then burst superbly to the front and the race was essentially over as Hodgkinson accelerated away to comfortably take the win in 1:59.53 and set the tone for the rest of the remaining heats.
Reekie was in the fifth heat of the women’s 800m and went straight to the front at the cut in as her race started the fastest of the lot so far. Hungarian Bianka Keri came up on her shoulder just before the bell as Reekie had slowed the pace down.
The Briton was still in front however and looked in complete control as the field really started to stretch out with 200m to go. American champion Nia Akins would come past Reekie on the home straight but second, and automatic qualification, was guaranteed.
Reekie clocked 1:59.71 and said: “It’s always good to get the first one done – blows the cobwebs away. It’s very hot out there and it’s the morning and I don’t really like mornings very much so I am excited for the semi-final.
“I ran the 1500m in Chorzow [July 16] in the midday heat and that was hotter than today so I knew I was able to run 800m in it. I’m feeling really confident, I’m in the best shape I have ever been, I am the fastest I have ever been, I just have to navigate that semi-final and go out there and expect to run a PB in that semi-final and I know I can do that.”
Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn, Enfield & Haringey) appeared to stumble at the start of the last of the seven women’s 800m heats but recovered well to slot into fourth place – and then not go chasing Olympic and world champion Athing Mu (USA) at the front.
Boffey moved into third down the back straight as the chase pack reeled in Mu and Natoya Goule-Toppin of Jamaica however she was unfortunately caught on the home straight and placed sixth – outside of progression to the semi-finals – in 2:01.40.
She said: “I am pretty upset and disappointed. That’s not me, I am so much better than that. I had so much confidence on the line. I was so confident with 150m to go but I don’t know what happened.
“I usually come through so strongly, especially with my performance a couple of weeks ago, I felt so good. I’m just disappointed I couldn’t live up to my own expectations today.”
Hughes, just shy of three days after that brilliant bronze in the 100m on a sensational Sunday night, was drawn in the first heat of seven in the men’s 200m and made extremely light work of advancing to the semi-finals with victory.
He blasted out of the blocks and it was clear almost instantly that he would have a significant lead coming out of the bend. Such was the margin, Hughes visibly slowed down with a good 50 metres to go, looking to his left and right at least twice before the line.
Despite slowing down so far out from the line, Hughes laid down a marker to the field with his time coming up as 19.99 – his third sub-20 second performance this year and something no one in the next six heats could better as he ranked first overall by 0.06 going into Thursday’s semi-finals.
He said: “It was quite easy, it was a stroll. I felt like I was warming up because I was like ‘where are the guys at?’. I am not disrespecting anyone, I am just letting you know that I am in shape.
“I’m feeling well and I’m looking forward to going through the rounds. I’m inspired. The 100m woke me up. It makes me more hungry to go out there and give it my best shot to get another medal.”
Asher-Smith, who placed eighth in the 100m on Monday night, got off to a great start from lane eight and was quickly ahead of Maboundou Kone of the Ivory Coast in lane nine. The Briton cruised down the home straight but it did look at one stage that Kayla White would take the win in that sixth and final heat.
The American slowed down far too quickly however as Asher-Smith, the 2019 world champion in the 200m, kept her form all the way to the line to clock 22.46 for victory and the eighth time overall ahead of the semi-finals in the evening session on Thursday. She said: “I came out here hoping just to qualify in a good position and do it as smartly and efficiently as possible. So I was happy to do that.”
Competing in the 200m for the first time at a World Championships, Neita was the first of the three Brits to take to the track after the women’s 800m heats and, having missed out on the 100m final in Budapest, she cruised through her heat.
Drawn in heat one, Neita got out smartly and was quickly ahead of Switzerland’s Leonie Pointet in lane seven to her right. She led coming out of the bend but would just be edged out of victory by Bahamian Anthonique Strachan as Neita placed second in a time of 22.39 – that the sixth quickest overall.
She said: “It felt really good to come out here today in the heat and qualify for the next round. I feel a lot better than I did a few days ago [after the 100m]. I am really excited about this event. It is my first time doing it at a major championships, so I am really taking it round by round, staying focused, staying relaxed and enjoying the moment.”
Williams – herself competing individually at an outdoor World Championships for the first time since 2017 – was the second of the British trio out in the women’s 200m heats and also comfortably advanced.
She pushed out of the blocks well, ensuring she was firmly in the top three needed to automatically qualify early on, before maintaining it as she finished third in the fourth heat of six in 22.67.
Williams said: “The job was just to go out there and get a big Q and that’s what I did and that was my second fastest time this year so I will take that. My preparation has been really good.
“It has been nice at training camp, and from trials to now has been a good block of training so it’s nice to replicate what I have been doing. My first 160m was really good, so it’s about building on that. But all the work’s done now and it’s about believing in myself.”
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally:
Gold (1): Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Women’s Heptathlon
Silver (1): Mixed 4x400m Relay
Bronze (1): Zharnel Hughes – Men’s 100m