When Hannah England crossed the line in the 1500m semi-finals in Daegu Stadium on Tuesday she wore an anxious expression. Only the first five were guaranteed a place in the World Championship final and the Oxford woman had finished sixth. She turned to the front row of the stands to enquire about her fate, smiling with relief when the news came back that she had scraped through as one of the fastest losers.
So there were not exactly great expectations weighing on England's shoulders when she lined up for the final yesterday. There were even less when the 24-year-old entered the home straight boxed in at the back of the big lead group in seventh place.
She veered wide to get a clear run to the line, then passed one runner after another until – out in lane four – she was clear in second place. She remained there, behind America's Jenny Simpson, although after crossing the line she again had to turn to the stands to ask about her fate.
"Second?" she mouthed, as if in disbelief. Indeed second, in a time of 4min 05.68sec, and England proceeded to celebrate a silver medal that had not featured on any pre-championship forecasts. Except one, perhaps.
England was one of the first wannabes to join the "On Camp With Kelly" project set up to nurture British middle distance talent in the wake of Kelly Holmes' Olympic double in Athens in 2004. "Kelly has been a great," she said. "She sent me a text before the first round saying, 'You better run well because I am setting my alarm for 2.30am.' Before the final she sent me a text saying she believed if I ran my own race I could be a medallist. Just to have someone like that show a snippet of belief in you is great. Kelly has been an inspiration for me.
"I was so calm in the last 200. I was thinking, 'I'm in a good position, I feel good'. It was only coming down the home straight I realised the others were tying up, apart from Jenny of course. I knew I had a strong last 100. I was hoping I'd get a gap on the inside but ended up going really wide."
Dame Kelly herself said yesterday: "I am so proud of Hannah. I knew she could do it and I have told her that many times. It's fantastic to see her make the transition from successful junior to world championship medallist."
That transition has been made with the patient guidance of England's coach, Bud Baldaro, one of the shrewdest, most knowledgeable veterans of the middle and long distance running scene.