Poor Keely Hodgkinson. Again. And the brilliant 20-year-old from Wigan must be wondering just how she can turn her outstanding talent into a major outdoor title after becoming the victim of a plot twist worthy of Agatha Christie at her most devilish.
At last year’s Tokyo Olympics, as well as the recent world championships in Eugene, Hodgkinson went toe-to-toe with the extraordinary American Athing Mu over 800m, only to leave clasping silver. And here at the Commonwealth Games there was more heartbreak as she fell victim to one of the most bizarre ever victory performances at a major championships.
It came from the Kenyan Mary Moraa, who strung out a high-quality 800m field for the first 350m before suddenly dropping back to last. It meant that with 250m remaining Hodgkinson was surging towards gold and Moraa was at least 10 metres back, her race seemingly spent.
But then, staggeringly, Moraa began to get a second wind and to pick off the rest of the field. The Kenyan was still in fourth coming into the home straight but somehow she found another burst of energy and adrenaline to power home in a rattling fast 1min 57.07sec to pip Hodgkinson at the death.
No wonder Hodgkinson, who had to settle for silver in 1:57.40, was gutted. “I haven’t ever seen that before,” she admitted. “People run the race differently. I hoped I would be ahead at 200m to go, that is how I beat her last time. But running is full of surprises.”
The stats showed that Moraa had the fastest first 200m (25.9) and fastest final 200m (29.3) splits 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 tactics had not been planned. “My plan was to go through in 57 or 58 secs, but after 300m I realised I was going too fast,” she said.
“I lost hope because everyone went past me. I was last. But when I got to 200m I started to close the gap. And with 120m to go I was counting 1-2-3-4 and I started to think I could win a medal. So I kept pushing.”
But at least Hodgkinson has another shot at glory at the European Championships in a couple of weeks’ time. And she is determined to make it count. “I will stay fuming until I am on top of that podium,” she added.
Scotland’s Laura Muir was beaming after getting her vest just in front at the line in a storming finish to take bronze from Jamaica’s Natoya Goule in 1:57.87.
“My coach told me to go out hard, and I thought I did that, but I was still miles off it,” she said. “Oh my goodness, 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 everything crossed for the photo finish. I was dying for that line.”
Yet that photo was then queried by the Jamaicans, and it wasn’t until 10.20pm that Muir’s bronze was finally confirmed. Now, though, she is targeting gold in Sunday’s 1500m final.
“I was determined, by doing the double, that I wasn’t going to waste not getting a medal,” she said. “I am so pleased. But I want that gold in the 1500m. Fingers crossed, the recovery will be quick.”
But the performance of the night came from Trinidad & Tobago’s Jereem Richards, who took 200m gold in a rapid 19.80sec despite glancing proudly at the clock over the final 20 metres. It was not only a personal best, but a Commonwealth Games record. But England’s Zharnel Hughes was also delighted after taking silver in 20.12.
Soon afterwards Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah added 200m gold to her 100m title in a Games record of 22.02, ahead of Nigeria’s Favour Ofili in silver and Namibia’s Christine Mboma in bronze.
Elsewhere on the penultimate day of track and field 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 also more medals for England, with Nick Miller winning 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 Scotland’s world champion Jake Wightman gave his all in a Commonwealth 1500m final for the ages. This time, though, the formula of his triumph in Eugene didn’t quite work as Oliver Hoare swooped at the death to win Australia’s first middle distance gold at these Games since Herb Elliott in 1958.
“That was as good as I could have done,” said Wightman, who struck for gold with just over 200m remaining only to be surpassed by Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot and then Hoare. “I wanted to make a statement but I didn’t feel anywhere near as good as I did a couple of weeks ago.”