kEely Hodgkinson vividly remembers the first time she saw athletics on television, open-mouthed as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah leapt to gold and glory in 44 extraordinary minutes at the 2012 London Olympics. Ennis-Hill’s performance was so inspiring that a 10-year-old Hodgkinson decided to take up running again after taking a few months off to focus on swimming. And nearly ten years later, the brilliant 800m star is poised to lead another medal rush this weekend.
They are already seizing the opportunity of another Super Saturday at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, with Hodgkinson and Laura Muir in the women’s 800m, Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr in the men’s 1500m and Zharnel Hughes in the 200m for gentlemen, all with their eyes on gold.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Games organizers have structured Sunday’s program to focus on women’s team sport a week after the stunning win of the European Championship of the Lionesses – with the women’s hockey, netball and cricket finals all taking place. get a prominent place.
Inevitably, they’ll dub the day Super Sunday too. But, as they also point out, it’s part of a broader trend to push women’s sports. This year, the Games will be the first major multi-sport event to award more medals to women than to men – with 136 medal events for women and 134 for men.
Many of them will be handed out over a weekend drenched in anticipation, anticipation and high-level rivalry. Along the way, England are also hoping to narrow the gap to Australia at the top of the medal table to create an exciting climax for the Games, which end on Monday.
And at the forefront of the gold medal load will be Hodgkinson, the intrepid 20-year-old from Wigan, who recently added a glittering world 800m silver to her Olympic silver in Tokyo.
Last weekend, like millions of others, she saw her school friend Ella Toone score the first goal in England’s 2-1 European Championship victory over Germany last week. But now she also wants to take her name deeper into the mainstream. “It’s about seizing the opportunity,” she says — and that’s something she’s already done better than most in her burgeoning career.
However, she says it might have gone a different way had it not been for London 2012. “I swam a lot at the time,” she says. “I also did athletics for a while and then I actually stopped. But then I came back after seeing that Jess was the female star of the London Olympics. I thought she was absolutely wonderful. Participating in a home Olympics certainly put a lot of pressure on her and she managed to deliver something spectacular.”
Hodgkinson hasn’t met Ennis-Hill, but last year the pair exchanged messages sharing what an influence she’d been. Like Ennis-Hill, she possesses a fearlessness that is almost as breathtaking as her climb to the top of her sport. However, she admits that this was not always the case.
She remembers racing in the Greater Manchester Championships when she was 12 or 13 and was so nervous she wanted to quit. “I was like, ‘Dad, I’m not running,'” she says. “And he really had to bribe me with a pair of shoes. But in the end I won. That’s where my athletic career was made. Now I feel like I can handle any situation.
“My father has always been a big influence on me. And he always said, ‘If you believe something, you can start doing it’. So that’s always been my thought. I just give everything back, and hope I come out the best.”
The excitement of the weekend kicks off at 11am on Saturday when England’s female cricketers take on India in the T20 semi-final in Edgbaston. They are big favorites after winning their group for New Zealand, with a win likely to see them in Sunday’s final against Australia.
The action takes to the track at 1:10 p.m. as the world 1500m champion Wightman takes on a premier field with Timothy Cheruyiot of Kenya and his Scottish teammate Josh Kerr, the silver and bronze medalists from last year’s Olympics.
Just over an hour later, all eyes are on the NEC Arena as England’s netballers take on Australia in a rematch of the 2018 final on the Gold Coast. It’s probably close and dramatic, but England defender Jade Clarke believes a big home crowd can make all the difference. “The lights are out, they all have their torches on,” she says. “I just feel like they’re part of the team and it just gives us a boost every time we have a dip in the game or the momentum works against us.”
The England men will also face Australia in hockey at 8:15pm, although they will be underdogs against a team looking to claim their seventh straight title. Then the action returns to the track, with Hodgkinson and Hughes hoping for a second and third track gold of the day for England.
Don’t be surprised if the Hodgkinson’s 800m is one of the championship races as the field includes not only Kenya’s 800m world bronze medalist Mary Moraa but also Muir, who won the 1500m world bronze in Eugene and Jamaican Natoya Goule , who ran 1:57.90 this year and looked sensational in her heat.
Inevitably, the overall quality of these games is mixed to say the least. But on the athletics track and the cricket field, the netball field and the hockey field, there should be battle royales this weekend. Time to buckle up and enjoy the ride.