Sebastian Coe has backed Keely Hodgkinson to emulate Jake Wightman by winning a world title and believes her European Championships success in Munich and her hatred of losing can propel her to glory in 2023.
The 20-year-old has won Olympic, world and Commonwealth silver medals over 800m, as well as European outdoor and indoor gold, in an astonishing first two years of her senior career. Yet Lord Coe, who knows more than most about 800m and 1500m glory, believes much more is to come and expects Hodgkinson’s first major outdoor title at the Europeans in August to be a springboard towards world championship success in Budapest in the summer.
Asked whether he sensed Hodgkinson was getting closer to being a dominant athlete and challenging the American Athing Mu, Coe said: “Yeah, I do. The fact she won when she did in Munich is very important. She needed to get a championship under her belt.
“She’s really grounded. I really like spending time chatting to her. But I also like the fact that she doesn’t like losing.
“I see her in the tunnel after a race she loses, it’s no picnic. I remember standing next to Jakob Ingebrigtsen after he lost to Jake Wightman in the 1500m at the world championships in Eugene and I sort of said something like ‘good race’ and he went: ‘No it wasn’t, I ran shit,’ and he moved on and then won the 5,000m. I like him. Keely’s the same.
Coe is also a good friend of Wightman and his coach and father, Geoff, and advises them on training. While he is impressed with Jake’s plans to double up at 800m and 1500m in 2023 he knows it will be devilishly difficult to win world medals at both.
“The reality of it is that it’s hard,” he said. “Physically, Jake is in good shape. I know what he does in training. He does good over-distance work. He’s still a firm believer in cross-country. He does good work in the gym, he’s strong in that area. But it’s probably mentally as tough as it is physically.”
Coe, who won 1500m Olympic gold in Moscow and Los Angeles after falling just short in the 800m at both Games, said: “Most people don’t manage it. If you go back historically, Peter Snell and Kelly Holmes are among a few that have done it, but in less secure environments and in a less secure time. I tend not to get into that.
“But it’s really about how you manage the gap between the two events that you’re doubling up in. That is really the tough bit.”