Emotional Keely Hodgkinson insists she is ready for the spotlight and knows her stunning 800 metres Olympic silver medal will change her life.
The 19-year-old clocked one minute 55.88 seconds to smash Kelly Holmes’ 26-year-old British record and finish behind Athing Mu of the USA in Tokyo
Holmes’ mark of 1.56.21 minutes had stood since 1995 and Hodgkinson became the first British medal winner in the event since Holmes took gold in 2004.
Hodgkinson is not on funding but knows her heroics in Japan will thrust her into the big time.
“I’m ready, that’s what I’ve dreamed of. I want to do this. I want to be one of the best in the world. I’m going to do everything I can to be that,” said Hodgkinson, after winning Team GB’s first athletics medal of the Games.
“I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing. Don’t fix something if it’s not broken. What I’ve been doing the last year has got me to this point.
“I’m going to carry on doing it. If you don’t enjoy it everything becomes pressurised and hard work. As long as I keep doing what I’m doing and stay injury free, hopefully there will be many more moments like this.
“In the past two years the support around me has brought me on, kept me relaxed and I have taken every aspect of this experience with me. I just wanted to go on this track and execute. This is what I want to do, be one of the best in the world.
“I am speechless right now. Kelly is a massive legend of the sport and always be with that double Olympic gold.
“She seems so lovely and has been sending me messages the last few days being very supportive. I am quite in shock about that time, but I couldn’t be happier.”
Hodgkinson will also treat herself to a rare night out to celebrate.
“You’ll catch me in the club. One guilt-free night out before I finish the season,” she said.
Jemma Reekie came an agonising fourth, despite setting a new personal best of 1.56.90 minutes, after being caught by the USA’s Raevyn Rogers.
“I definitely wanted a lot better than that,” she said. “The time was good but I know that I’m in even better shape than that, and it’s just frustrating when you don’t perform on the big stage.
“You can’t complain if you’re fourth in the Olympics, but you can because you’re just outside those medals. I’m not going to be that happy about it, but there’s nothing I can do about it now and I can’t reverse time.”
Alex Bell also claimed a personal best of 1.55.66 minutes to come seventh.
Hodgkinson, studying criminology at Leeds Beckett University, has gone from virtually unknown at the start of the year to the podium in Tokyo.
In January she ran 1:59.03 minutes in an 800m race in Vienna to become the fastest woman under 20 at the distance indoors.
A month later she became youngest British European Indoor champion for over 50 years after winning the 800m in Torun.
Hodgkinson is not funded by British Athletics as, amid the pandemic, they did not add anyone further onto the World Class Performance Programme in 2020.
“I’d think so but we’ll see!” she quipped when asked if this will help her chances of funding.
Coach Jenny Meadows, who won world bronze in 2009, tweeted a picture of a relaxed Hodgkinson curling her eyelashes in the build-up to underline her composure.
She has been backed by Barrie Wells, a millionaire businessman and philanthropist who has previously helped fund 18 athletes, including Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, to the London 2012 Olympics.
Wells had promised her the chance to drive an Aston Martin if she made the final.
Her silver eased Team GB’s woes after Dina Asher-Smith’s injury problems, Adam Gemili’s torn hamstring and Zharnel Hughes’ disqualification in the 100m final for a false start.
Gemili suffered more Olympic misery – having finished fourth in Rio – when he walked his 200 metres heat.
The 27-year-old had his right thigh heavily strapped and pulled up immediately after the gun.
He tore his hamstring in his last blocks session before final call and finished in one minute 58.58 seconds after his lonely trudge to the line.
“The last run, literally the last run before I came into the call room, the last blocks start and I felt it go,” he said.
“It’s my hamstring. I had to try but I’m in so much pain right now – I said to my physio, just strap it up and let me at least try to push out but I can tell straight away.
“You don’t just cramp up when you sprint, it was a tear. I can’t believe this has happened.”
Andrew Pozzi reached the semi-finals of the 110m hurdles after crossing the line in 13.50secs.
The 29-year-old will run again on Wednesday morning as he looks to make Thursday’s final.
The USA’s Erriyon Knighton became the youngest male finalist in Olympic 200m final history when he won his semi-final in 20.02s.
In the morning, Karsten Warholm obliterated his own world record – which he only set last month – in the 400m hurdles to claim the Olympic title.
The Norwegian ran 45.94s to finish ahead of the USA’s Rai Benjamin (46.17s) and Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos (46.72s).
Jazmin Sawyers and Abigail Irozuru missed out on medals in the long jump final as Germany’s Malaika Mihambo took gold.