Poor Keely Hodgkinson. Again. And the brilliant 20-year-old from Wigan must be wondering how she can turn her stellar talent into a major outdoor title after falling victim to a plot twist worthy of Agatha Christie in her most devilish way.
At last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, as well as at the recent World Championships in Eugene, Hodgkinson went on to battle the extraordinary American Athing Mu in the 800m, only to take silver. And here at the Commonwealth Games, there was more heartbreak when she fell victim to one of the most bizarre victory performances ever at a major championship.
It came from Kenyan Mary Moraa, who spanned a high-quality 800m field for the first 350 meters before suddenly falling back to the last. It meant Hodgkinson, with 250m to go, was on his way to gold and Moraa was at least 10m back, her race seemed to be over.
But then, mind-bogglingly, Moraa started to get a second wind and take the rest of the field. The Kenyan was still fourth in the home game, but somehow she found a new burst of energy and adrenaline to head home in a rattling fast 1 minute 57.07 seconds to beat Hodgkinson to death.
No wonder Hodgkinson, who had to settle for silver in 1:57.40, was stripped. “I’ve never seen that before,” she admitted. “People run the race differently. I hoped I would be 200 meters in front of me, that’s how I beat her last time. But running is full of surprises.”
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. As the Kenyan explained afterwards, her unusual tactic was not planned. “My plan was to go through in 57 or 58 seconds, but after 300 meters I realized I was going too fast,” she said.
“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. So I kept pushing.”
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 will keep smoking until I get on that stage,” she added.
Scottish Laura Muir beamed after getting her vest just up front at the line in a stormy finish to take bronze from Jamaican 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, you do that. But I had crossed everything for the photo finish. I was terrified of that line.”
But that photo was then questioned by the Jamaicans, and it took until 10:20 p.m. before Muir’s bronze was finally confirmed. Now, however, she is aiming for gold in Sunday’s 1500 meters final.
“I was determined, by doing the 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. But England’s Zharnel Hughes was also delighted after taking silver in 20.12.
Shortly after, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah added 200m gold to her 100m title in a Games record 22.02, ahead of Nigeria’s Favor Ofili in silver and Namibia’s Christine Mboma in bronze.
Elsewhere on the penultimate day of the athletics action, Alastair Chalmers won a shock bronze in the men’s 400m hurdles to secure Guernsey’s first Commonwealth Games medal on the track behind defending champion Kyron McMaster.
And there were more medals for England too, with Nick Miller taking gold in the hammer and Adam Hague and Harry Coppell taking silver and bronze behind Kurtis Marschall in the pole vault.
Earlier in the day, Scottish world champion Jake Wightman gave it all in an age-old Commonwealth 1500m final. This time, however, the formula for his triumph in Eugene didn’t quite work out, as Oliver Hoare dove to Australia at death to win Australia’s first gold in the middle distance since Herb Elliott 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.”