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Hodgkinson's silver medal inspires next generation of GB athletes

·4-min read
Keely Hodgkinson after winning the 800m Olympic silver medal and breaking the British record
Keely Hodgkinson after winning the 800m Olympic silver medal and breaking the British record

By Bella Butler, Sportsbeat

Keely Hodgkinson’s Tokyo silver medal will be a defining moment for inspiring the next generation of Team GB athletes, that’s according to former Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell.

She also set a new national record in the process, beating Kelly Holmes' mark of 1.56.21 minutes that the double Olympic champion set in 1995.

The 19-year-old made the historic final alongside fellow Brits Jemma Reekie and Alex Bell, who finished fourth and seventh respectively.

It was Britain’s first medal on the track in Tokyo, with the sport aided by funding generated by National Lottery players, who have helped transform Team GB's Olympic fortunes over the past two decades, as well as supporting good causes including community initiatives.

The 1992 gold medallist, Gunnell, watched the 800m Olympic final from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which has benefitted from £2.2billion of National Lottery funding,

alongside young athletes from Newham and Essex Beagles in a National Lottery initiative to inspire the next generation in sport.

“Keely has come from nowhere,” Gunnell said, who has seen that National Lottery funding not only helps elite athletes get to the start line of the Games but simultaneously supports grassroots sport too.

“Jemma looked great and really good, but Keely is amazing. Both looked so comfortable in the heat and the final was such an open race.

“But from all three British girls, it's just so inspiring that they got to a final.

“We need to inspire our girls and so many get put off sport from a very young age and that's quite scary.

“We have great role models through Keely, Alex and Jemma, but also from women in all sports from so many nationalities.

“We have a bigger team of women than men for the first time ever in Team GB and I'd like to think that that's been influenced from the last ten, 15 years and thanks to The National Lottery.

“British women are really delivering in athletics and are on top of their game, but also in the women's hockey, the football, the cycling, all kinds of different sports.

“We want women and young girls to learn so much from sport and it's about learning about winning and losing and being part of a team, it’s about building confidence and getting support for girls as individuals and get them to feel strong and confident.”

Olympic sprinter turned bobsledder Montell Douglas was also at the Olympic Park to cheer on the 800m runners and support The National Lottery's campaign to get more children involved in sport.

She said: “To have three British women in an Olympic final is insane.

“It’s so inspiring to the youngsters here and they were all screaming and cheering them on and are so inspired.

“Keely’s [performance] was beyond words and a massive congratulations to her. She’s started something there.”

Newham and Essex Beagles Transitional and Endurance Coach Jackie Simpson, who supported the children as they watched history being made with the Olympic final, has also witnessed how The National Lottery has helped develop community athletics.

Simpson said: “The kids are so excited by the Olympics and so inspired. There’s new and up and coming athletes constantly and it’s just been so great for British athletics.

“We have so many young girls that are inspired by the female athletes out there, as are the boys as well. They want to achieve what they have and are inspired by how hard they work.

“Without the funding from The National Lottery, these initiatives can’t go ahead so it’s so, so important to give children a purpose.”

Beagles’ hurdler Ben Lane was not only moved by the British performance in Tokyo, but also by the presence of Olympians at the Olympic Park.

The 12-year-old said: “The three females are very inspiring, but I love every event and every sport, like the triathlon and BMX.

“It’s so amazing to have people that have done so much in their careers here right now.

“I also want to win an Olympics gold medal one day for athletics.”

National Lottery players provide vital support to elite athletes who are competing in Tokyo but also a wide variety of community activities to get more people into athletics. If you’ve been inspired by Team GB and want to get involved, visit www.iamteamgb.com and for more information on how to get involved in athletics, visit https://www.britishathletics.org.uk/get-involved/

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