An athlete’s career is a short one and although she is still only 22, British 800m superstar Keely Hodgkinson doesn’t want to waste a moment of it. It’s part of the reason why she is committed to trying to defend her title at the Roma 2024 European Athletics Championships, taking place on 7-12 June (tickets on sale here).

The Olympic and world silver medallist won gold at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships and has an unquenchable appetite for more success in the Italian capital.

Hodgkinson talks exclusively to European Athletics for our brand-new eight-part podcast series Ignite and can be listened to and downloaded on all major podcast platforms.

“I would like to win in my career as many medals as possible,” she said. “And I think if I was to miss it (Roma 2024), I’d be missing out on an opportunity. I’d love to look back on my career and say I did this many European Championships and I won this many medals. I don’t want anything to go to waste.”

In her short career, Hodgkinson has already accrued 10 medals at major championships at senior, U23, U20 and U18 level. From her Olympic silver in Tokyo through to gold at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary. And she has her eyes on more European glory this year. 

“I also have a title to defend. This could be second outdoor, but also fourth European title including indoors (Torun 2021 and Istanbul 2023) and outdoors. So that’s a really good aim for me now. It’s a perfect amount of time away from the Olympics and good chance to get some rounds practice.”

Having not raced during the winter due to injury, she is now ultra keen to get back to the championship arena. “It comes at a good time for me,” she says. “I’ve not done an indoor season, so I’m fresh going into the outdoor season, a bit more mentally ready. Ready to attack it from all ends.”

She has only raced in Italy once before, as a raw 18 year old in Rovereto in 2020 and is excited at the prospect of returning to compete in Rome.

“It’s such a beautiful country, I’ve always wanted to go back,” she admits. “It just hasn’t fitted in with Diamond League meetings there. So, I am really excited to go to such as historical place and race. 

“I’ve actually been to a lot of places in Italy, but not for racing. I’ve been to Milan, I’ve been to Verona. I’ve been to Lake Garda, I have been to Rome before. But I was a baby, so it will be nice to experience it again and feel the culture.”

Two years ago Hodgkinson struck gold in Munich at the end of a hectic championships season for the young British runner.

“We’d already had the World Championship and the Commonwealth Games – being British – so we were definitely the most run down out of everyone,” she recalls. “But, I remember thinking I was annoyed I got silver at the Commonwealth Games – I thought I was going to win that day. So, I was like ‘right, you’ve got to win this one.’

“Going into the final, I was quite excited. I really get up for a final. I think they are really fun. That’s the stage where you can really showcase the best of you. I remember going into it and thinking I want to run it a bit differently. 

“It was automatic that people thought I would just go from the front – I could have run it that way – but I didn’t want to be so predictable. I wanted to try another way. I sat down with (coaches) Jenny (Meadows) and Trevor (Painter) and said ‘How would you feel if I just sat in the middle towards the back and let someone else take it? 

“I feel that might have thrown people off a little at the time. So, I did that, I sat in around fifth for the first lap and slowly worked by way forward and in the last 200 just went for it and it worked out fine. 

“I wanted to have some fun with it, finish off the season with something fun, a bit different, do something unexpected. Still coming away with the win, I think it’s a good experience to go though, knowing that going forward, I can run it a few different ways.”

The women’s 800m final takes place on Wednesday 12 June at the Stadio Olimpico.

Credit photo: Getty