This piece is on the 800m events at the 2021 European Athletics Championships, held last weekend. Stuart Wei wrote these pieces and we will have a final piece on Monday.
The 800m finals
The two 800m finals were magnificent races. Let’s start with the men. The original plan had been the showdown between Britain’s two outstanding 2021 indoor runners, Elliot Giles and Jamie Webb. Then Giles withdrew, deciding that the European Indoor Championship would not help his quest for Olympic triumph. Jamie Webb had also run 1.44 this year so was a serious contender. The opposition included Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, the 2017 World Champion, and three Poles. Bosse finished a disappointing sixth. Adam Kszczot, the most experienced of the Poles was run out of it, finishing fourth.
Webb did nothing wrong but on the day it was Patryk Dobek who triumphed in a PR 1:46.81. Mateusz Borkowski was second and Webb third, but only 0.14 seconds behind the winner.
Dobek started his post-race comments with the semi-final: “Yesterday’s race was very tough. It wasn’t just the race itself, but I had spent the whole day thinking about how it would go and what I should do to make the final. Today was a whole new day, I was more rested. I did not want to start the race as fast as I did yesterday, I preferred to stay in the back. I was taking risks because I didn’t want to be left when the others made a move. I had to change my rhythm to overtake the others. When I saw them moving to the right, I would use the chance to overtake on the inside. As for the summer season, I’m still planning to train for the 400 hurdles, but I’m sure my coach will think about what to do now and come up with a plan”.
Webb, who is always a thoughtful athlete, said: “I’m really happy to come away with another medal and repeating being on the podium in Glasgow. I wanted to upgrade my medal but I wouldn’t quite call it a downgrade. I’m a much better athlete than I was two years ago and I gave it a good go today. I got out there and maybe made a few mistakes but I’m proud of how I ran. Obviously, I lost, I came here to win the race. So in two years, I have to complete my set [with gold, he won silver in 2019]. But I am really proud of how I ran. I followed my philosophy of how to run. I was controlling the race. I wanted to go out and make it a fast race because I knew that Dobek could be dangerous in a slow race. I thought I was going to win every step till the finish. It was a fair race, you can’t complain about a medal”.
Britain had high hopes in the women’s race with three of the six athletes in the race. However, they were facing two strong and experienced Polish athletes, both of whom had run in previous world championship finals. Of the British girls, Isabella Boffey had a bad day at the office, finishing last. However, reaching the final in her first championship final was a great achievement.
19-year-old Keely Hodgkinson, simply took control of the race, running on the leader’s shoulder before making a move, taking the lead, and holding it to the finish. Ellie Baker was fourth but the first four were separated by just over half a second.
Hodgkinson said afterward: “I’m so happy. You never quite understand the shock when it happens. You picture it in your head so many times, but when the reality comes through, it’s just a different feeling. I didn’t really think about the pressure. I am only 19 and I’m still learning and there are still things that I’m going to learn. I just wanted to keep my same relaxed state like I did in the heats and the semi-final. Me and Trevor [Painter her coach] talked about that and we said not to change anything for the final. I just didn’t want to make any mistakes and I really believed in myself.
“Trevor and Jenny trust my instincts. They are really letting me grow into my athlete and Jenny’s experience is there to tap into if I need it. They said to me ‘just keep the same relaxed state and you’ll know how you feel and what to do’ and that’s what I did.
“It’s all a new experience, but I’m more than happy to do it if we can come here safely and do our best to compete. I’m really proud of the other two. Me and Ellie [Baker] are sharing a room here, so we’ve been cheering each other on and we really wanted each other to make the final. I think all three of us have gone beyond people’s expectations and we’ve all performed really well, so we should be really proud of ourselves.
Baker said: “I can’t lie, I’m absolutely gutted with how it went. Until the last bend, I had it in my head that I still had this medal and I really thought that I was going to get it. The Polish girl moved out so wide and I had to almost go into lane four to try and get the bronze medal and I’m absolutely gutted to come forth because it’s such a bitter pill to swallow when you come that close to winning a medal. I’m so happy for Keely [Hodgkinson] to get the win, she really does deserve it and she’s absolutely killing it at the moment, so I’m really proud of her.”
“I’ve never done three rounds before, I’ve only ever done heats and finals, so this has been a massive learning experience for me. My legs felt great, I’m so happy that I feel like I’ve cracked the whole recovery side of things, so that’s given me a lot of confidence going into future championships. I’m gutted to have missed out on a medal, but it sometimes goes like that. It’s my first senior championships, so my coach will probably tell me to take that, be happy about it and build on it. I’m only 22, so I’ve got a lot more to strive for. As an athlete, you just want to get a medal”.
It’s a good time for British middle-distance running.
1 Keely Hodginson 2:03.88
2 Joanna Jozwik 2:04.00
3 Angelika Cichocka 2:04.15
4 Ellie Baker 2:04.40
1 Patryk Dobek 1:46.81
2 Mateusz Borkowski 1:46.90
3 Jamie Webb 1:46.95
4 Adam Kszczot 1:47.23