Keely Hodgkinson takes silver in narrowest of world 800m defeats to Mu

At the end of a women’s 800m final for the ages, the gap between Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson was 0.08 seconds. Half a stride. The width of a torso. But also the chasm between silver and gold, devastation and glory. “There have been no tears yet,” Hodgkinson said, as a small grimace fell across her face. “I’ll do that in my own time.”

The 20-year-old from Wigan had gone toe to toe all the way with the Olympic champion Mu in a race that felt like a shootout at the OK Corral. Her reward was her first world championship silver medal. But it still felt like a kick to the teeth.

“I never thought I’d be doing that aged 20 and with another 20‑year‑old,” Hodgkinson said. “I have a lot of respect for her but I’m obviously gutted. I came here to win the gold and it didn’t happen.”

Last year at the Tokyo Olympics the Briton was full of smiles after taking silver, 0.67sec behind Mu, and celebrated afterwards with a test drive in the Aston Martin used in the James Bond film No Time to Die. When asked if she might do the same again, Hodgkinson was blunt. “I don’t deserve it yet,” she replied.

“Last year at the Olympics I was very happy with a silver because I was aiming for a medal. This year all I had on my mind was the gold. But the gap’s closing and hopefully one day I’ll get there. We have world championships next year so we’ll go again.”

Never, surely, has a British athlete looked so distraught at winning her first world medal. Yet this was a heck of a race, and a heck of a performance. There were few niceties as the 200m was covered in a brutal 27.56sec, and the first lap in 57.11. With 300m to go, Mu began to wind it up, but Hodgkinson was ready. Then the American attacked again, but still she resisted.

Going into the final 100m Mu led by a metre, but as she slipped into the second lane Hodgkinson sensed her chance and pushed. With 80m the pair were level, and a famous shock was on the cards, only for the American to find more and win in 1:56.30.

Hodgkinson says she went to Eugene to win gold and was ‘gutted’ to leave with silver. Photograph: Amanda Loman/Shutterstock

Despite her disappointment, Hodgkinson was adamant she would not have changed anything about how she raced. “No, I wouldn’t. I took the shortest route. I sat in, bided my time. I was confident. I don’t think I did anything wrong, it just wasn’t my time.”

Mu, meanwhile, said it was a close call. “I just physically wasn’t where I want to be,” she said. “I knew it was gonna be a little tough. Thankfully I got the gold.”

If there is a consolation for Hodgkinson it is that she now has a much easier task to win gold at the Commonwealth Games next week and the European championships in Munich next month. The lust for more medals remains strong.

And while the second act of one of the most compelling rivalries in women’s sport also went the way of the American, Hodgkinson believes it could be third time lucky at the worlds in Budapest next year. “I knew it would come down to the wire,” she said. “I just need to find that extra 1% next year, don’t I.

“I’m definitely a little bit annoyed, but being on another world podium in my second year of being in the professional world of athletics is something I should be proud of. I definitely am.”

There was another medal on the final day for Britain in the women’s 4x400m relay but they were no match for the US team of Talitha Diggs, Abby Steiner, Britton Wilson and Sydney McLaughlin, who took gold ahead of Jamaica.

McLaughlin, who broke the world record in the 400m hurdles earlier in these championships, was extraordinary as she ran a 47.91 leg – nearly 1.48sec faster than anyone else in the field – to bring the US home in 3:17.79.

The US team after taking gold in the 4x400m relay. Photograph: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The British team of Victoria Ohuruogu, Nicole Yeargin, Jessie Knight and Laviai Nielsen were delighted with bronze in a season’s best of 3:22:64. “It has been such a dream running with these girls,” Knight said.

“There is so much potential in this team and there are other girls not running here at the moment as well. I just want to soak this up, these moments don’t come around very often.”

The result meant Britain finished in 11th in the medal table with seven medals, their best return since Beijing in 2015. The U=SA topped the final table, with the hosts winning 33 medals, including 13 gold.