Keely Hodgkinson, pictured, took the silver medal behind Mary Moraa (Martin Rickett/PA)
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British athletes will take “energy and momentum” into the Paris Olympics after their best showing in 30 years at the World Athletics Championships.
Memorable gold medals for Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Josh Kerr, three silvers and five bronzes mean GB finished up in Budapest with ten medals and seventh in the medal table. The leanest team in a generation delivered the best British haul since Stuttgart 1993.
“Internally, we know the talent of our athletes but a number of them have stepped up massively this week,” says Stephen Maguire, technical director at UK Athletics. “We need to celebrate it first but hopefully this sets us up really well to go to the Paris Olympics and to show – we really can do it.”
Britain’s middle-distance golden generation delivered as the only nation to have three women in the 1500m final and this was the first World Championships at which Britain have won medals in the men’s 800m and 1500m.
They cemented their status as a relay powerhouse with four medals from a possible five with baton in hand, and the other saw the men’s 4x100m squad miss bronze by 0.04 seconds.
Starting with an unexpected mixed relay silver on opening night, momentum built in the British team when it was clear something special was brewing.
“The atmosphere has been inspiring and we’ve spurred each other on,” said silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson.
Adam Gemili said: “It’s a smaller team but the vibe has been immense. Every athlete has been supporting each other and it’s a step up from anything I’ve ever been a part of.”
Prospects for Paris 2024 are looking healthy, certainly when benchmarked against the two silvers and three bronzes that were brought back from Tokyo.
Team GB could do with producing a new athletics champion as the Olympic sport that produces national moments of a magnitude that others simply can’t mature.
Johnson-Thompson won heptathlon gold in a low-scoring thriller and will need to improve on the 6740-point performance that brought gold with Olympic champion Nafi Thiam to return and Anna Hall progressing rapidly.
Lightning could strike a third time for Josh Kerr or Jake Wightman, depending on the latter’s recovery from a foot injury, and Keely Hodgkinson may switch up her race tactics to build on a streak of three straight global silvers. Zharnel Hughes won an individual global medal at the sixth attempt and 100m bronze should break the dam on championship success for the sprinter, who previously struggled to put it together at the right time.
The only slight fly in the ointment came in the ongoing issues in field events, with the very notable exceptions of high jumper Morgan Lake and pole vaulter Molly Caudery who finished just shy of the medals in fourth and fifth respectively. Britain normally conjure up an Olympic field medal, with Holly Bradshaw producing bronze in Tokyo, with Athens 2004 the only Games in a generation where Britain have not reached the podium in a field event. It’s not immediately clear where that medal is coming from next summer.
Keely Hodgkinson will hunt gold at Paris 2024 after three consecutive global silver medals
“Rightly so, there have been comments in the media about field events,” said Maguire. “We need to invest in these events, there are some places where we’ve been historically strong but we’re not now.“ The whole world’s moving forward in these events and we need to get closer to the athlete-coach relationship when it comes to our field athletes.”
Athletics continues to be the most competitive sport in the world in terms of range and diversity of successful nations, with 46 different nations winning medals here. After a period of uncertainty for the sport, Britain are well-placed to be uppermost among those medal winners in the French capital.
“This will give me a lot of confidence for next year,” said Johnson-Thompson. “Hopefully in Paris, it’s more of the same.”
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